‘All hands-on-deck situation’: Emergency response teams react to recent flooding

Severe thunderstorms hit western Massachusetts on Tuesday, bringing close to three inches of rain to our area that caused flash flooding.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Severe thunderstorms hit western Massachusetts on Tuesday, bringing close to three inches of rain to our area that caused flash flooding and there’s more heavy rain expected Wednesday.

Western Mass News spoke with experts from a towing company and the Triple A, and they said the best way to stay safe is just to avoid driving through flooded zones all together.

Heavy rain leading to flash flooding Tuesday night in western Massachusetts causing a dangerous situation for drivers.

In a video, it shows scenes in Chicopee captured by a member of our Western Mass News team, you can see the fast rising water on Sheridan Street and Fuller Road, with cars being swept down the flooded roads, and perhaps more dangerously, you can see some drivers taking a risk and driving through the water.

We spoke to one Chicopee resident who told us what she experienced.

“We have a parking in the back and the reason why we don’t park back here is because, if you guys go back here, that’s horrible too,” said Xena Rodriguez, a Chicopee resident. “That’s like under and is a whole bunch of water. So, that’s not even safe.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all drowning related deaths in the United States happen when people drive in flooded waters.

Triple A spokesperson Mark Schieldrop said those statistics are not surprising.

He told us most people would choose to drive in heavy rain instead of waiting for calmer weather.

“A lot of times, folks are just driving along and then they encounter some flood water, and then they have to make that decision,” said Schieldrop. “Do they drive through or not. Even really shallow looking water can pose danger. It only takes six inches of water on the roadway to for a vehicle to lose control and you can literally float away in six inches of water.”

Western Mass News also spoke with Stephen Gonneville, the general manager at Interstate Towing Inc.

He told us conditions like Monday’s prompted emergency reaction from his team.

“Last night the weather turned very extreme on us,” explained Gonneville. “We had to run into an all-hands-on deck situation with the amount of calls that were coming in. People were out driving on the roads; I don’t know if they were hit unsuspectedly by the weather, but some people were trying to go to areas they shouldn’t went through.”

Gonneville has this advice if you find yourself driving through flooded zones.

“Seek shelter, try to stay home if you possibly can, avoid driving through large puddles of water,” added Gonneville. “Cause’ you don’t know what hazards are beneath those. If you see a standing puddle, you know, just stop, pull over, turn around and go a different way. You know, if the roads are that bad, visibility is zero. Sometimes is just easier to pull over to a safe location and wait for the storm to pass.”

Gonneville also told us that when responding to a flash flood emergency, the first thing his team has to do is wait for some of the water to recede to better assess the situation and bring everyone to safety.