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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
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WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday,  July 7, 2021) –– After making landfall in Florida’s Big Bend area, Tropical Storm Elsa is churning up the state’s West Coast Wednesday on its way to Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, the Washington, D.C. metro area and Maryland, and could be packing potentially several inches of rain when it arrives on Thursday.

The National Weather Service  (NWS) has issued a “Tropical Storm Watch through 8 AM Friday morning for St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, including the adjacent waters along the Chesapeake Bay and Lower tidal Potomac river.” It behooves area motorists and residents to avoid areas where water is covering the roads – “even familiar ones.”

Heavy tropical rains can create flash flooding in low lying areas such as lakes, rivers and creeks when water rises and starts ponding on roads. Most flood deaths happen in vehicles and AAA is reminding drivers to Turn Around, Don’t Drown (National Weather Service) when they come upon standing water on a roadway.

“Many drivers view rain from tropical systems like Elsa as more of an inconvenience than a hazard,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Due to that, drivers tend to be less cautious than they should be. The most important steps to take when driving in wet conditions are to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. If you can, wait until the storm has cleared and it is safe to venture out.”

In addition, the NWS has also posted a Hazardous Weather Outlook “for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, Tidal Potomac River, and I-95 corridor through central Maryland, northern Virginia, and District of Columbia.” 

Each year, flooding causes more deaths than any other storm related hazard. It’s often because people underestimate how fast the water is moving and how powerful rushing water can be. Here are ten things to do to arrive alive as Elsa stalks the area.

10 Safety Tips for Wet Weather Driving:

  1. Ponding on roads - As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car and potentially stall your engine. Twelve inches of rushing water can carry away most cars. Around two feet can quickly carry away a truck or SUV. Turn around, Don’t Drown. 
  2. Seek higher ground - If your vehicle stalls or is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately.
  3. Never drive through standing water - Standing water can be deceiving and drivers should avoid it. No matter how shallow it may appear, water may be concealing downed power lines, be deeper than it appears, or have significant force from flooding. 
  4. Slow down, brake early and drive with greater caution and alertness - Drivers are more likely to lose control of the vehicle when roads are wet, so reduce speed and keep your eyes and mind on the road. Brake early, but not hard, to allow the time needed to slow the car down.
  5. Increase following distance – This is even more important when driving near vans, recreational vehicles and cars pulling trailers that may be adversely affected by wet roads and wind.
  6. Use the central lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
  7. Know your vehicle - Light cars, vans and other “boxy” vehicles have a tendency to be feel more impacts of strong gusts of wind. If you feel unsafe, pull over and if possible seek shelter until you feel safe to drive again.
  8. Watch for hydroplaning - No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Even if brakes work under normal conditions that doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with less traction. Also, turn off cruise control as it can cause hydroplaning.
  9. Use your defroster - Keep the air inside your car dry and prevent windows from fogging by using your defroster along with your air conditioner.
  10. Take the nearest exit - If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.

Take the warnings seriously. This is not Elsa the Snow Queen of the 2013 Disney animated film Frozen, but the powers of Tropical Storm Elsa are “monstrous.” What to expect within the hours ahead?  “Heavy rains, which could lead to flooding, strong winds and a few tornadoes, are possible from the Southeast to the Mid-Atlantic through Thursday night, with the nation’s third land-falling tropical storm of the season in no hurry to make a courteous exit,” reports the Capital Weather Gang. “By Friday, the storm’s wind and rain are expected to lash the Northeast.”

Remember: “Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard,” cautions the NWS in its Turn Around, Don’t Drown campaign. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water.” AAA Mid-Atlantic offers more wet weather driving tips here.

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AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and nearly 90,000 members in Washington, D.C.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app ( for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit

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Who's in the Driver's Seat? The Transformation of Transportation

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, AAA and TEDx Wilmington held the first TEDx Salon dedicated to ideas worth spreading in transportation.

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This TEDx WilmingtonSalon was organized in partnership with AAA

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