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Driving rain

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Posted: Monday, April 3, 2006 10:00 pm

Thanks to back-to-back storm systems, Lodi won't likely see much sunshine in the coming week.

But more than wet pant legs, limp hairdos and muddy shoes, this system brings with it flooded roads, bad drivers and worse visibility.

Locally, increased rainfall has also meant more accidents, spinouts and vehicle rollovers, and more of a chance that you, too, could be caught in the crunch.

Road warriors are being cautioned to play it safe when driving in rainy conditions to reduce their chances of being in a fender bender - or worse.

Officer Adrian Quintero, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, asks people to remember it is a state law to turn headlights on in inclement weather, including rain and fog. The CHP also advises people to go slower when they begin to feel they're losing control of their vehicles.

"If your vehicle begins to hydroplane, let off the accelerator and steer into the direction its rotating," Quintero added.

Safe driving tips will apply over the next week or more, since the chance of roads clearing up is not likely to happen anytime soon, according to weather forecasters.

In addition to heavy rains, strong winds, hail and funnel clouds may occur throughout the week, activity that is not typical for this time of year, according to Ken Clark, a forecaster for AccuWeather, a private forecasting form.

"Normally, it's supposed to be 70 degrees now," he said. "We're not having that."

The high Monday was 62, with a rainfall of 1.04 inches in a 24-hour period, according to Lodi Fire Station 3 on Ham Lane, which records the data daily.

An oh-so-brief dry spell on Thursday will be followed up, however, on Friday by more rain, more storm clouds and more slick roads.


A car splashes through the intersection of Crescent Avenue and Elm Street Monday morning. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

On Monday, motorists were not faring well as cars spun out, overturned and collided due to rain and flooded roadways near Jahant and Turner roads.

One truck exiting Highway 99 at Jahant Road overturned in an area of road that the California Highway Patrol reported as flooded.

At the same time, flood signs were being posted on West Turner at Devries roads. A motorist spun out of control at Victor Road at 10 a.m., with no major injuries.

While there were no major weather-related accidents on city streets, some areas - including Elm Street at Crescent Avenue and Hutchins Street and several parking lots - were temporarily flooded in the morning hours.

Lt. Bill Barry, who oversees Lodi Police Department's traffic division, asked motorists to reduce speed and increase awareness, especially in flooded areas.

County roads, he added, can be especially hazardous for their sharp turns, narrow passage and blind spots.

Even on the best roads, however, rain can affect driving conditions in more ways than one, according to a Web site. A report at http://www.visualexperts.com says rain can filter away light from car headlamps and distract drivers from looking anywhere else but directly in front of them.

Meanwhile, light reflecting off wet roads and away from road stripes, and smeared, foggy windshields conspire to confuse the eye, the Web site continues.

To minimize rain-related dangers while driving, experts suggest motorists drive slowly to ensure more traction between tires and the road, always drive with headlights on, buckle up and respect the conditions.

"Make sure you've got good tires on your car, good wipers and you're prepared for wet weather," Barry added.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

How to avoid a rollover

• Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advise all passengers to wear seat belts. Buckled-up riders are 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash than unbuckled occupants.

• Load your vehicle carefully, distributing weight evenly to minimize handling changes in your vehicle.

• Rollovers are more likely on rural roads and highways, so be alert when you travel in these areas. The narrower the road, the less margin for error you have.

• Be cautious on curved, rural roads and maintain a safe speed to avoid running off the road and striking a ditch or embankment and rolling over.

• Be a calm driver. Don't overcorrect or panic if your wheel drops off pavement. Most rollovers happen when a driver wrenches the steering wheel to get back on the pavement. Instead, gradually reduce speed and ease the vehicle back on the roadway when it is safe.

• Keep your tires properly inflated, and replace them when worn. Balding tires lose their grip on rainy roads, resulting in a slide that can cause a rollover.

- Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

First published: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

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