Jeffrey Caldwell 804-786-2715

June 1, 2010

June 1 Marks Beginning of Atlantic Hurricane Season

RICHMOND – June 1 is the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, so it’s a good time for residents to review their personal readiness plans and know what actions to take if forced to evacuate in the face of high winds and flooding.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reminds drivers that hurricanes don’t restrict their wind and rain impacts to the coast. 

Historically, Virginia has suffered significant damage and loss of life from tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes that made landfall in other states. Flooding and wind impacts from these storms – depending on their size, speed and path – can extend many miles inland.

In 1969, Hurricane Camille had lost its Category 5 strength by the time it reached the Blue Ridge Mountains after pummeling the Mississippi coast from the Gulf of Mexico. 

It lingered several days over central Virginia, however, dropping more than 27 inches of rain on Nelson County, causing approximately $113 million dollars in damage and killing more than 150 people in Virginia alone. 

It wasn’t the wind or the storm surge but the flooding that caused so much devastation.

More recently, flooding far inland in Virginia from both Hurricane Isabel (2003) and Tropical Storm Gaston (2004) cost the state several billion dollars in damages. Isabel left 36 people dead in Virginia, while nine died as a result of Gaston.

While some of these deaths resulted from falling trees and other circumstances, a number were caused by motorists driving into flooded roadways. 

A rule of thumb from the National Weather Service — if you can’t see the road or its markings, do not drive through the water.

What to do in the event of heavy rain and flooding

Before a storm strikes, have a family disaster plan in place – it’s a good idea in advance of any emergency. Make sure every family member is familiar with the plan.

The best way to protect yourself and your family and to reduce delays if you must travel during heavy rains is to know the road conditions before you leave home. 

Listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather or other reputable weather sources.

Also check before you drive or call 511 for the latest on road conditions throughout the state.

VDOT offers the following safety recommendations to drivers who must be on the road during flooding and high winds:

  • Expect the unexpected. Be prepared to slow or stop quickly and without warning.

  • At night, drive at a speed that enables you to stop quickly and safely within the distance illuminated by the vehicle’s headlights.

  • Never drive through water flowing across a road. It takes only six to 12 inches of water to float a small vehicle.

  • Never drive around barricades. Remember, the road has been closed for your safety.

  • Slow down when driving through standing water. Driving too fast through water could cause you to lose control of your vehicle because of hydroplaning.

  • Avoid flood-prone areas, especially along creeks and other low-lying areas.

  • If a flash flood warning is broadcast, seek high ground immediately.

  • Be alert for tree limbs and other debris in the roadway. Even small branches and other debris can damage a car or cause the driver to lose control.

  • Assume all fallen power lines are electrified and dangerous. Never attempt to drive across, step over or move fallen utility lines.

  • The danger is greatest in areas where trees are near to, or overhanging the roadway. Use extra caution when driving in those areas.

  • If you come across a flooded road that is not barricaded, turn around and use an alternate route. Help other motorists by notifying VDOT at 800-367-7623 at your earliest and safest convenience.

In the last 30 years, 60 percent of those who died as a result of a hurricane drowned. Of the children under 13 who died, 78 percent died as a result of inland flooding. 

VDOT doesn’t want to add any more drivers on its roads to those statistics, so remember, “Turn around, don’t drown.”

For more about how to stay safe on the roads during hurricane season, visit

VDOT has joined the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and other state agencies to develop the Ready Virginia campaign. This one-stop resource provides a clearinghouse of emergency preparedness information from multiple emergency response agencies. Visit to find out how to keep your family safe.



Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.

Page last modified: June 1, 2010