A powerful storm system is headed into Austin, projected to bring the area its heaviest rainfall in six months. A low-level pressure system rolling in from California is expected to combine with moisture generated from the Gulf of Mexico. That means Austin can expecting three to five inches of rain, with isolated spots possibly receiving even more.
Scattered showers are expected to begin overnight, building in intensity Tuesday afternoon and lasting through Wednesday afternoon. And damaging winds, hail and flash flooding are all a possibility.
It’s been a while since Austin motorists have needed to travel in such conditions. AAA Texas has released the following driving tips:
- Allow more travel time. Plan to drive at a slower pace than normal when the roads are wet. Rushing equals a higher risk for collision.
- Buckle up.
- Keep your windshield and windows clean. Wipe down your windows and windshield before you pull out of your driveway. If the glass gets foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster fan to a higher speed. Use your air conditioner to reduce humidity.
- Keep headlights clean. When motorists drive on wet streets, mud and dirt can splash onto your headlights, reducing illumination by up to 90 percent. Remember to clean your headlights before you hit the road.
- Drive with your daytime running lights or low-beam headlights on at all times – especially on dark or overcast days. Also use low-beam headlights in fog.
- Recognize a crisis. When visibility is so limited drivers cannot see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, the driver should consider pulling off the road and waiting for the rain to ease up. It’s best to stop at a rest area or exit the freeway and go to a protected area. If the roadside is your only option, pull off of the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail.
- Wet roads mean poor traction. Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of heavy downpour, as oil and other debris rise up and then wash away. Knowing how to handle poor traction reduces the potential for hydroplaning, skidding or getting stuck in the mud.
- Avoid using cruise control in wet weather driving conditions. This feature works great in dry weather scenarios, but when used in wet conditions the chance of losing control of your vehicle increases.
- Sudden braking often leads to skids. Stopping on a slippery surface requires more distance, so increase your following distance. Focus your attention as far ahead as possible – at least 20 to 30 seconds. Large commercial vehicles require a longer distance to brake safely. Give a truck or bus extra distance.
- “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Drivers often underestimate the power of floodwater. When there’s water running across a road, drivers should always turn around and use a different route. According to Texas Department of Public Safety six inches of water can cause tires to lose traction and begin to slide, 12 inches of water can float many cars, and two feet of rushing water will carry off pick-up trucks, SUVs and most other vehicles. Remember during flash flooding, especially at night and at low water crossings, water may be far deeper than you think.