March 24, 2023

We were forecast for rolling thunderstorms today that were predicted to bring heavy rain and possible flooding.  When I checked my weather app it suggested the rain would let up for an hour late in the morning.  I decided this would be a good break to take Zena for a walk before the rain got heavy again.  I put on my walking shoes and got Zena ready to go and then told Melissa we were going to the park.  Melissa’s home office sits in front of the bay window, and she warned me it had been breaking off and on and was interspersed with heavy rain.  I wavered as light rain started.  Since Zena was ready to go, I took her outside for a break, then hitched up Loki to go out.  By the time we got in the heavy rain had started.  I needed to go to the market and since I did not want to walk Zena in the rain (she does not care), I jumped in the jeep and took off.  The rain increased on the highway and I noticed I began to hydroplane in several spots.  That is when I passed a car that had slammed against the median ditch and fence.  The driver appeared to hit the same hydroplane conditions I had.

When I looked online, I found hydroplaning, or aquaplaning, is a dangerous driving condition that occurs when water causes your car’s tires to lose contact with the road surface.  The grooves in your tires are designed to act as miniature aqueducts.  They pump water away from the contact patch (where the rubber literally meets the road) at an amazing rate.  Continental Tire estimates at 50 mph (80 kph) the average new tire can disperse about eight gallons (30 L) of water per second.  When a tire cannot disperse water quick enough, the contact patch starts to ride on the surface of the water rather than the road, and that is called hydroplaning.  When the tires are hydroplaning the vehicle is out of control, and when the tires regain contact it can cause the vehicle to slip in other directions.  That is what happened to the driver in the ditch.

There are two things you can do to minimize the chance that your vehicle will be hydroplaning.  The first is to maintain proper tire pressure.  Underinflated tires can be more prone to hydroplaning, while badly overinflated tires can reduce grip in any situation.  The second is to keep your vehicle’s speed appropriate to conditions on wet roads.  Driving fast increases the rate at which your tires need to pump water.  When you slow down and avoid driving through every puddle of standing water you can drive safely.  No matter how good a driver you are, you are likely to find yourself hydroplaning at some point.  Modern vehicles are equipped with stability control which might detect the condition and may correct a skid by applying individual brakes or even cutting power.  However, once you lose contact with the road even the best electronics may not save you.  If your tire condition and speed are sensible, you will generally ride out a hydroplaning event for the seconds it takes to reach a section of the road without standing water.  Until you regain traction, you have no control.  If you panic and try to make corrections while you have no contact with the road it may not end well.

THOUGHTS:  While I did not enjoy hydroplaning on the highway, the good aspect of receiving so much water was it provided a test for the growbag bed I constructed.  When I checked the bed, it was holding water.  I had placed a bag of mulch in the bed to keep the growbags from sitting directly on the concrete and to allow for overwatering (or a big rain).  According to the YouTube videos I had watched, this water will be available to leach back up into the bag.  Many of life’s events carry positive and negative results.  The California snows have shut down transportation and trapped people in their homes, but the snowpack is a critical key for lessening the area’s three year drought.  The way to avoid hydroplaning is to prepare in advance and then to act sensibly.  The same is true water in the western US.  We need to make preparations in wet years and act sensibly every year to replenish critical groundwater.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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