By Paul T. Choate
Sept. 18, 2012. The recent heavy rainfall in Watauga County has resulted in multiple area roads and the Boone Mall’s east entrance to close due to flooding. Rainfall also caused a portion of Precision Printing’s parking lot to cave in.
Precision Printing is located on U.S. 321 near the Boone Mall. Boone Planning and Inspections Director Bill Bailey told High Country Press on July 20 that Precision Printing, Boone Mall and other nearby businesses are located on and near a flood plain.
According to the Watauga County Road Conditions and Weather Updates’ Facebook page, the Boone Mall parking lot has flooded and as of 10:39 a.m. EMS officials were getting ready to close the mall’s east entrance (the entrance facing U.S. 321).
Additionally, some area roads have been forced to close due to flooding. According to the NCDOT Twitter feed, “Watauga Cty. drivers should avoid Guy Ford, Dewitt Barnett, Hubert Thomas, Watauga River roads due to flooding.”
The National Weather Service reports that as of 8 a.m. today, Boone has received 6.46 inches of rain. Many mountain counties in North Carolina and Virginia, including Watauga and Ashe counties, are under a flash flood watch though this afternoon. Watauga and Ashe counties in particular are also under a flood advisory until 4:15 p.m. today.
It is important to exercise caution when driving on wet road surfaces. NCDOT statewide crash data shows that rain or wet road surfaces were a factor in 198,033 crashes between 2006 and 2010, resulting in 972 fatalities and more than 94,000 injuries.
The following information is from the NCDOT regarding driving in hazardous conditions:
The best ways to stay safe during this type of weather are to drive defensively and stay alert. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, never drive through standing or rushing water.
To help keep you and your loved ones safe when driving in bad weather, always:
- Avoid driving through flooded areas, even if they seem shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and pick-ups;
- After driving through a puddle, tap your brake pedal to help dry your brake rotors;
- If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner without stomping and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own;
- If the rain is extremely heavy, pull over in a safe area in a parking lot or on the roadside with your emergency flashers on, away from any trees or other tall objects, and wait for the weather to improve;
- Allow more travel time;
- Turn on your low beam headlights and use the defroster to increase visibility;
- If possible, stay in the middle lane where the road tends to be higher;
- Reduce your speed by at least five to 10 miles per hour and allow at least twice the normal following distance;
- Signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Remember, roads are slickest in the first 10 to 15 minutes, especially if it has not rained for a while; and
- If a traffic signal is knocked out by a storm, regard the intersection as a four-way stop. If two or more vehicles arrive at the same time, the car to the right has the right of way and after signaling, may move in any direction. If two facing vehicles approach the intersection at the same time, any car traveling straight ahead or turning right has the right of way.
For more information on wet weather driving or other factors that contribute to crashes, consult the North Carolina Driver’s Handbook. To get a copy, call 1-877-368-4968 (DOT-4YOU) or visit www.ncdot.gov/dmv/driver_services/drivershandbook.
For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit www.ncdot.gov/travel and click on “Traveler Information Management System (TIMS)” or follow NCDOT on Twitter. Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. To access it, type “m.ncdot.gov” into the browser of your smartphone. Then, bookmark it to save for future reference. NCDOT Mobile is compatible with the iPhone, Android and some newer Blackberry phones.