Rational Preparedness

Trapped: The Flood of Summer 2014

I was reading a blog post by the Organic Prepper, Daisy Luther, about floods that can pop up and it reminded me of a 2014 summer storm flood that happened near my home. It wasn’t a super flash flood that came up in a matter of minutes but infrastructure made it just as difficult to escape from as such a flood.

I remember the day well. I was leaving work for a 6 p.m. graduate school class I was auditing on Real Estate Finance. I was 16 miles from home, the short way, and 25 miles by the freeway. Sometimes its faster to take the longer rout and I often do. It had been raining a pretty good, firm, steady rain for much of the day. As I pulled up to the school, a bit early, I sat in my car for a while, and watched the rain come down. It was raining quite hard at this point and had been so for a time long enough for me to take note.

This wasn’t like one of those summer thunderstorms that come through, blast you with extremely hard rain for 10 minutes, then leave. Those kinds of storms, you take notice of, right away because they are kind of violent in nature. Things blow over and away in these storms. This was a hard rain but not like that. This was the kind of rain, you don’t notice as special, right away. What caused me to take note was that after hours of rain, the rain was coming down, (without violent wind) at a near thunderstorm pace.  I began to wonder a bit about flooding.

I put on my rain coat, that I always keep in my car, and headed into the two hour class. While in class, I noticed that the rain never let up. It continued to come down hard enough to be heard, on the roof, the entire time. I knew, at this point, that the roads must be flooded. I also knew that I had a minimum of 16 miles to drive and a river to cross. I’m going to take a break from my story and skip to other stories, I heard about in the news.

From the News

Here is a story, from the Huffington Post, that sums it up pretty well. According to that article, some areas received 6 inches of rain. What happened to people, on the freeways, is a slow tragedy. One Freeway, I-696 is below grade for much of it’s path. Another Freeway, I-75 passes under I-696, at one point where it goes above grade.

Below grade freeways depend on pumps to keep them dry, this is especially true, under bridges, where they often dip lower, or where above grade freeways go below grade, as I-75 does. The pumps could not keep up with this rain. So the freeways begin to flood in the lowest spots. Traffic continues to drive through the floods as long as they can. Eventually, either someone gets stuck, or someone stops short of the flood and decides not to pass. With 10s of thousands of cars behind them, a flood in front of them and walls or banks on either side, these people are trapped. They are surrounded with no way out. They have to sit and wait.

There is a bigger problem though. The place where they were forced to stop is filling with water. Unable to move, the water fills in around them. Eventually it envelops the car, leaving the passenger stranded, in the pouring rain, and swimming for high ground. The water in I-75 reached near the bottom of one of the bridges going over it. The bridge is high enough to not need clearance sign. That means the water was at least 14 feet deep.


This is I-696. This is part of my daily commute and one of my rout choices that day.

The Organic Prepper points to people, in similar situations, situations, being stranded overnight, in the traffic behind the floods. They can’t get out until all the traffic behind them can turn around and drive the wrong way on the freeway, to an exit. If there is flood between them and the exit, they might be trapped until the water goes down. Daisy talked about food and water being dropped in from helicopters and she did a good job talking about how to make sure, you aren’t one of those people who needs supplies delivered to you for you to survive. Imagine when the sun comes back out and you are trapped in your car, on the freeway for hours.

Back to my Story

The 25 mile faster rout home, that I talked about above was I-696. I take the freeway, at most days of the week. It’s a regular part of my life. In my mind, I’m thinking, It’s a freeway. Freeways are the most engineered, most expensively built roads there are. Not only that, this is a newer freeway, built in the mid to late 1980s and not in the 50s or 60s. Why would it be flooded? I chose not to go that way.

The shorter rout home is to take Big Beaver Road, which turns into Metro Parkway, along the way. This is a major divided highway. It’s above grade and it is about as major of a road as any non-numbered rout can be. Certainly that would be a good rout home. I din’t take Big Beaver. It was flooded too.

I chose a different longer path home and I did not get trapped. I did not drive up to the flood and have a lucky miss, getting there after traffic had built up. I did not find a TV in the school and tune in to find out, which roads were open. I did not google the news on my phone to find out traffic info either. None of these methods are very efficient or effective.

Waze to Stay Safe

The way I chose my rout and the way I got home safe and dry, was with the Waze app. You may already be familiar with the Waze app. It’s quite popular for pointing out the location of police and routing people around traffic. The app’s ability to gather real time data and use it to guide routing decisions can do more than save you time and tickets; it can save you from disaster and maybe even save your life. I rarely leave home without the app running. It’s to the point now, where I feel like I’m in fog and my vision is very limited (to natural site distance) without it.

With Waze, I can see what is happening 10, 20 or 1000 miles down the road. Without it, I can see, maybe half a mile–Less, if there is a bend in the road. I feel blinded without it. I feel like I’m driving into an unknown, taking a risk that I may be trapped. Years ago, I was a truck driver and I would be trapped, on the freeway, about once every 50,000 miles, or twice a year. That doesn’t happen to me anymore. I save my friends, work, and family’s addresses in it and turn on the service before I go.

If you don’t have the Waze ap, download it now. One quick tip. It has a mute button, right on the navigation screen. On familiar routs, I usually mute it and peak at it now and then, for rout changes. On strange routs, I let it talk to me. If you don’t have a phone to put the app on, I recommend a Google Nexus. Currently, I see Amazon is selling the Huawei Nexus 6P. These things change fast, so there may be a later model out, if you are reading this 15 minutes from now.

I could write an entire post on just this phone but I will just say a few things quickly here, because it’s a little off topic. The reason I’d choose this phone is freedom. The phone comes unlocked, and can be used on just about any carrier. All that you need to do is purchase a $10 sim card from your carrier. You can even buy them in foreign countries, giving you international mobility. You can also switch carriers, any time. The phones don’t come with the level of bloatware that ones sold by the phone company come with. You have the freedom to delete apps it does come with. The internal storage on my HTC phone is always in danger of being filled up by bloatware and I’m constantly having to manage it by cleaning it and moving stuff to the SD card. These phones, at least the 6p models, don’t except SD cards and have large internal storage sizes to pick from (so go bigger). That’s actually a bonus because, although you can’t upgrade later, if you go big enough to begin with, you won’t need to. You’ll be better off, with one place to store you data and not having to move it to make room. When I moved my pictures, it messed up the filing system and now they are all mixed up and I can’t find them. This or it’s decedent is my next phone.

The next thing I recommend for you is a way to store water. Even with Waze, there are many reasons, you can be trapped in your car.  Being without water for an extended time could be dangerous, especially in hot months.  There are a few options here. First up to to buy vacuum insulated beer growlers. Although they are made for beer, they are really just bottles and even their makers point out they can hold any beverage. The reason I recommend these beer growers is two fold. First, is size. If you are going to be stranded in the hot sun for an extended period of time, you’re going to need more water than your daily water bottle holds. Beer growlers come in a standard size of half a gallon and one comes in a gallon size.

The second reason I recommend a vacuum growler is insulation. If you are not familiar with vacuum bottles, a vacuum is amazing insulation. These vacuum bottles can store ice water for close to 5 days. Maybe it will last less time in a hot car but expect to put ice in on Monday and again on Thursday if you want it ice cold. Even if you leave it in your car for weeks and all the ice melts, the temperature inside will remain stable at near the average temperature of your car, throughout the day. In the hot summer, that might be 75 degrees, with cool nights and moments your AC is running.

For the half gallon Growler, I recommend the Stanley Growler. I have a Stanley Bottle and it is a superb quality product. The 226 reviewers on Amazon give the Growler 4.9 out of 5 stars. That might be the best ratting I have ever seen on any product, ever. There are zero 1 star reviews. Stanley boasts that there is no plastic that comes into contact with your beverage. You might consider picking up two or more of these, depending on how many people you have in your car.

For the Gallon Growler, I recommend the DrinkTanks Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Beer Growler.  A close friend has this bottle and he is very happy with it.  He uses his for beer and uses a Stanley water bottle for water.  He did have one problem with the lid but the manufacturer fixed for him and re-engineered the lid, so that it will be less likely to break again.  Amazon reviewers like the growler but there are fewer of them than for Stanley.  A big advantage of this bottle is the size.

If the Growlers are too not for your taste; another option is canning jars. Canning gars designed with with stand heat and pressure, which is important for storing water in your car. You can get a set of four half gallon canning jars for somewhere around $20, with shipping. The come in a box, you can store them in.

I recommend actually canning the water you put in these jars. This means first you boil the jars, then fill them with boiling water. Put lids and rings on them and let them cool. This will seal the jars, good and tight for long term storage. It will also mean the jars will probably be stay sealed in a hot car because the water was hotter than your car when you sealed the jars. After the jars seal, take the rings off, let them dry, then put them back on. Taking them off to dry will keep them from rusting. Putting them back on will give you peace of mind that your jars will remain sealed even if the jars are bumped around on the hottest of days.

A word of caution for any method of storing water in winter: Leave plenty of air space in the containers, in case they freeze.

You should also have some durable food in your car. I will talk more about emergency car kits later. For now, check out Daisy’s post on the topic.


1 Comment

  1. Anita Williams

    Interesting article, would go ever thought of using Ball canning jaws to keep water in the car. I’ve always heard you shouldn’t keep bottled water in the car. Thank you for this info.


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