County's EMA earns signs from weather service

The National Weather Service has awarded Huntington County four flood warning signs as part of its “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Brandon Taylor, director of the Huntington County Emergency Management Agency, would really like to be able to put the county's water rescue units out of business.

He hopes the signs his agency has received from the National Weather Service will put him one step closer to that goal.

Through the efforts of Taylor and EMA Assistant Director Brian Topp, Huntington County has received four signs - out of only 100 being distributed nationally - through the National Weather Service's "Turn Around, Don't Drown" campaign.

Area NWS representatives visited the EMA office in the Huntington County Jail on Monday, April 20, to present the signs to Taylor and Topp. The signs - which warn drivers to "Turn Around, Don't Drown" - will be permanently installed on Huntington County roads that frequently flood, Taylor says.

Taylor says he plans to discuss with Huntington County Highway Superintendent Troy Hostetler the possibility of having his staff create additional signs that can be permanently installed or temporarily placed in other trouble spots.

The first signs will probably be installed on Mahon Road and on CR 1100N, both roads that flood frequently and both sites of recent water rescues, Taylor says.

One man who drove off a water-covered CR 1100N, just east of U.S.-24, and into a flooded field in February of 2008, was trapped in his truck for several hours until he was spotted by a passing Roanoke firefighter, Topp says. The entire area was under water, so the Roanoke Fire Department used a boat to rescue the driver - who was then taken to the hospital with hypothermia.

And just last month, a pregnant woman and her 7-year-old daughter were rescued when their vehicle became stranded on Mahon Road, which had also flooded.

Both roads are regularly marked with "High Water" signs, which are just as regularly ignored, Taylor says. The National Weather Service's "Turn Around, Don't Drown" campaign is designed to remind drivers of the dangers of continuing down a flooded road.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood waters, the NWS says. Most cars can be swept away in just 18 to 24 inches of moving water, the NWS says. with trucks and SUVs having only an additional six to 12 inches of clearance before they, too, can become buoyant. A vehicle swept downstream will often roll to one side or flip over, giving the driver only a few seconds to escape, the NWS says.

When the NWS announced the sign promotion, Topp wrote a request for the Huntington County EMA. He received a positive response the day after submitting the request, Taylor says.

Photo caption: Shown at the presentation of four flood warnings signs as part of the National Weather Service "Turn Around, Don't Drown" campaign are (from left) Michael Lewis of the Northern Indiana Weather Service; Brandon Taylor, director of the Huntington County Ermergency Management Agency; EMA Assistant Director Brian Topp; and Michael Sabones and Mike Rehbein, both of the NWS.