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This PSA Shows Exactly How You’ll Die If You Drive Through a Flooded Roadway

The National Weather Service already had a catchy little manta about flooded roadways: “Turn around, don’t drown.”

Now, they’ve followed that up with a Public Service Announcement showing exactly how you’ll die if you try to drive through a road that’s flooded with water.

The PSA, posted by the National Weather Service Bay Area during a historic bomb cyclone, starts with a serene (if crudely animated) video of a modest hatchback driving through a forest and approaching a flooded road.

At first, the car stops. Then, the unseen driver presumably decides to try and ford the flooded area. As the car reaches the middle, the water starts to buoy it up, and it floats. Suddenly, the water carries it away!

At first, the car lazily drifts down a creek, and lightly bumps a tree trunk in the flow of water. The graphics aren’t good enough to show any damage, and there’s a “Huh, that doesn’t look so bad” moment.

But then, the animated car spins around and gets lodged under a fallen tree branch. As the force of the water bears down on it, you can see it and the branch start to bog down. You can tell that even if any occupant of the car wanted to get out, there’s no way they could open the door.

Slowly, the force of the water pushes the car, and then the tree itself, down. In the final seconds of the video, the car slips below the surface, and the screen fades to black, with the message:

“It takes just 12 inches of water to carry of a small car. More than half of deaths from flooding each year occur in vehicles.”

It’s a strangely powerful, visceral reminder of a simple truth: cars are designed to float, and driving through any amount of standing water is incredibly dangerous.

You never know how deep water is, or how fast it’s moving, until you’re in it. And by then, it’s too late.

If you find yourself facing a section of flooded roadway, remember this PSA and follow the Weather Service’s advice.

Turn around. Don’t drown.

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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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