It’s the time of year when heavy rain and flooding are a part of life in Missouri, according to storm watchers at the state Highway Patrol.
The National Weather Service is predicting heavy rain in areas ranging from Columbia to Joplin to St. Louis this weekend. The downpours are projected to drop two-to-seven inches of rain in parts of the state, which could threaten travel.
Captain John Hotz with the Highway Patrol says motorists too often drive into moving water, sometimes dodging around barricades, with tragic results.
“Practically half the drowning cases that we see over a year’s time actually start off with them being inside vehicles and then being swept off the roadway” said Hotz.
The state Highway Patrol reports six drownings so far in 2017, with all of them occurring since late March. Hotz notes it’s extremely dangerous and illegal to drive around barricades.
With the heavy rain will come the widespread use of windshield wipers. Many drivers are unaware that when they turn on their wipers, they are also required to have their headlights on.
Hotz notes the requirement applies in every case, regardless of the technology a car is equipped with.
“It’s important” said Hotz. “Some people have the daytime running lights, and that helps out with the front. But if you don’t actually turn your vehicle lighting system on, a lot of times your tail lights are not operational. And that helps you to be more visible to others out there on the road.”
A statement in a release from the highway patrol says “The one second it takes to turn on headlights marks a second that a car could be made more visible to prevent an accident”.
The patrol also enforces travel laws on waterways in Missouri. The agency’s concerned boaters will inadvertently get themselves into dangerous situations over the weekend, and is urging that extra precautions be taken when boating in flooded lakes and rivers.
Hotz says fast moving water, which is prevalent during flood conditions, can force boats to capsize, and can cause fixed objects to come unhinged.
“When these lakes and rivers spill over the banks, we see a lot of erosion and other types of damage. You see things that are swept into the water that maybe normally aren’t there. There may be some structures, docks, chunks of wood, trees, those types of things.”
Boaters are advised to avoid any operations in swift moving waters over the weekend.