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Rain advisory: How to survive downpours

By Sigomba Ramadhan Omar | December 5th 2019 at 01:21:39 GMT +0300

A flooded road between KCA University and Utalli College in Ruaraka after heavy downpour in Nairobi on November 30, 2019. [File, Standard]

Heavy rains continue to pound Kenya leaving behind a trail of death and destruction by way of flash floods and landslides.

Houses have been swept away and cars carried away by floods.

The Meteorological Department has issued an advisory asking residents at high risk and flood-prone areas vacate to higher grounds.

According to the weatherman, the rains will continue throughout December with occasional breaks.

Well, despite the downpour, people have to put food on the table.

The fortunate ones drive to work whereas others use public transport. The majority walk their way to their daily grind.

So how do you handle heavy downpours?

Safe drive in the rain

Caution!! In some cases, rivers have broken their banks and roads flooded. When you encounter such a scenario, the best advice Standard Digital can give you is to avoid!

Find a solution that does not involve driving through a flooded road to minimise the risk of both you and your vehicle. Just turn around and find another safer route. Or turn back.

Avoid driving through more than 15 centimeters stagnant water and 10 centimeters of moving water.  

Waiting a while for the rain to subside, as opposed to dashing to your destination, is a safe precaution.

If you, however, should cruise on wet roads, then observe the following precautions.

Heavy downpour mostly comes with poor visibility as the raindrops pound on the windscreen.

Cars have wipers to clear water but the moist created inside the car attaches itself on the windscreen obscuring visibility.

Basically, the solution is dry cloth or switching on the defroster. Switching on your headlights helps you to see clearly and helps other drivers to see your vehicle.

Being able to see clearly when it pours should not fool you into fast driving as you need to protect yourself from aquaplaning.

Aquaplaning is when a vehicle starts sliding uncontrollably due to the tires encountering more water than the treads can displace.

According to a car blog named USNews, when driving at high speeds over wet pavement, the water begins to push the front tires off the ground slightly, creating a thin layer of water between the tire and the road surface.

A vehicle, therefore, loses traction that prevents the vehicle from responding to control inputs.

A driver attempts to navigate his vehicle through a flooded road. [File, Standard]

Experts say that it only takes 1/12th an inch of rain and 50 km/h to aquaplane, notes idrivesafely.com.

As much as you drive slowly, you should also ensure that you give other vehicles more space, a distance that you will be able to see the number plate of the vehicle ahead.

This will give you and other vehicles more time to react to traffic.

When heavy downpour is accompanied by strong winds a driver is advised to keep a firm grip on the wheel.

One should always drive with both hands on the wheel just in case a sudden wind blows and moves your vehicle.

A driver should also be vigilant on larger vehicles like heavy haulage trucks which are more susceptible to high winds and drivers might find it difficult to stay in lane.   

Walking safely in the rain

For pedestrians, observe the following safety tips.

Residents of Suna Estate in Ngando, Dagoreti in Nairobi County pass near submerged cars and houses. [File, Standard]

Cars have wipers. For human beings, one is advised to wear a brimmed hat so that you can keep the rain off your face to see clearly during the downpour. An umbrella is obviously better.

While walking in the rain, pedestrians should also make themselves visible by dressing in bright or light-coloured clothes.

The clothes should have reflective strips to make vehicles see you easily.

Road paths are mostly slippery when it rains, therefore, make sure that you walk with groovy-soled shoes.

The grooves help to get a better grip of the road and allow water to run through them.

Lastly while walking in the rain, you should always dress heavily and specifically in layers to prevent oneself from catching a cold.

NB: Always use a raincoat or carry an umbrella with you. 

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