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Tuesday, May 31

Flooding and driving: some straight talk

This year has been one of the wettest on record for the great state of Texas, and we have more rain coming. Among the benefits locally to these rains is the news Medina Lake has finally reached full capacity, with water flowing over the spillway earlier today.

Overall and in the short-run, though, the damage has been pretty rough. Last year the wet weather boosted bug populations  and facilitated a reptile migration - which could certainly be repeated. But even the uptick in alligators and water moccasins isn't the worst threat these rains bring.

That dubious position goes to flash-flood drowning. Sadly, many of these deaths are individuals who either decided to ignore constant warnings from state and local officials by driving through water over the roadway or are individuals attempting to rescue those trapped in a car caught in water. Just over this passed weekend the death toll reached 7 statewide.

We had a number of "funny" memes made up to try and take a light-hearted approach to this issue, but it simply doesn't seem to fit at this point. This isn't a funny issue. Lives are being put at risk while working to rescue those caught in the floods. These are emergency responders, good Samaritans and even TV reporters. While we love to read and hear about these heroic stories, the reality is these stories should never even have happened.

Over the last month the regional Twitterverse has seen more than 300 tweets with the hashtag #TurnAroundDontDrown. It's a phrase used in literally every media interview conducted by state and local authorities, including our folks. It's a phrase promoted by journalists and pundits and social media experts.

And, yet, the message just isn't sinking in. We're doing all we can here, folks. Heck, just this morning we posted on Facebook a reminder of why we keep saying this. By the way, that post had nearly 1,200 shares by 2:30 this afternoon.

Most people caught in the waters end up looking silly and get themselves on social media. They end up becoming the butt of a snarky meme. That, or they're rescued by folks willing to risk themselves to un-do the consequences of incredibly poor judgment.

We get it. You just want to go home (the final epitaph of one man caught in rising waters last week). However, if you try to cross a low-water crossing you just might not ever get there. At the very least, your car will be pretty well junked. If you've crossed a barricade to get through the water you'll be hit with some major fines.

Worst of all, someone - perhaps a loved one or a good Samaritan trying to help - could lose their life.

So, in the name of all those who've fallen victim before, we'll continue our constant reminders. We'll keep talking and emailing and blogging and Facebooking and tweeting about it until finally we'll have a flood event completely devoid of cars caught in creeks. We may say it with an eye-roll and a bit of frustrated snark from time to time - particularly when we say something like "Don't become the subject of a meme".

Please know, in those moments, those words aren't necessarily the words of a large nebulous government agency. Those are the words of your fellow Texans; they're the words of individuals who care and are frustrated by the news stories telling of folks who "think they can make it" and ignore the literally hundreds of warnings to the contrary.

Those are the words of individuals - at TxDOT in San Antonio, from Josh or from Laura - who hope you do get to see your family at the end of the day and want you to be safe.

And we'll keep saying it until the message finally gets through to every single person.

Turn around, don't drown. Don't drive through water over the road. It only takes six inches of water to carry a full-sized pickup truck. You don't really know what's under that water. Find an alternate route. In the midst of a major storm, if you don't have to travel ... don't. Go to work late, or stay at work late. Wait out the storm and the flood waters where possible. Evacuate if flood waters are approaching you. Get uphill.

Spread the word.