Friday Firesmith – Road Closed

Friday firesmithI’ve worked with FEMA during floods and other disasters for over twenty years now. I’ve seen some pretty extensive damage that was done by hurricanes and tornadoes but the most impressive force in nature, by far, is water. Water is going to do some damage when it gets a notion to start moving over what we’ve laid claim to as our own. Flooding kills more people every year than any other natural disaster. Tell people a building is on fire and they’ll hurt you trying to get out of it. These same people will sit in a house that’s flooding and try to ride it out.

Road closed2Recently there were some roads closed in South Georgia due to localized flooding due to some really heavy rains. Universally, when you have someone out manning barricades, and these barricades all have signs attached to them that read “ROAD CLOSED” there will be people who stop and ask, “Is this road closed?”

As far as I know, and like I said I’ve been doing this for twenty years or so, no one has ever been so bored they decided to drag a bunch of barricades into the road just to sit there and tell people the road isn’t actually closed. Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life or maybe they do it different somewhere else but as far as I can tell, when there is a disaster and the road is underwater, yes, in point of fact, the road is closed.

Oh, and here’s something you might want to research before you decide that some guy wearing an orange vest has no right to tell you where you can and where you cannot ride; there is a law that states anyone who is legally directing traffic shall be legally recognized by motorists and anyone who goes around a barricade or ignores directions from such a person can be fined.

Here are a few things I’ve heard over the years:

“I want to go see the water.” (Go somewhere else. Most barricades are set up to detour traffic and water tourists tend to make other people think the road is open)

“I want to take some pictures of the water” (Go somewhere else. Most barricades are set up to detour traffic and water tourists tend to make other people think the road is open)

“My truck is big enough to go through the water” ( And if you’re wrong guess who has to help rescue you)

“You aren’t a cop. You can’t stop me” (No, but that water sure as hell can and it will. Eighteen inches of water will float most cars and the smaller cars float faster)

“Have you guys gotten anything to eat yet?” (Okay, some people are actually human beings and will try to help emergency workers out. You’d be surprised at how many people will bring treats to workers who have been pulling eighteen hour shifts in disasters. I had a crew that was invited into someone’s home to get dry clothes and warm food. The man loaded them clothes while theirs was in the dryer.)

In July of 1992, two children were drowned when their father decided to drive around a barricade in Albany Georgia. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. The man who put the barricade out has to live with it to. Did he not put it in the right location? Did he not have it where it could be read? Were the ROAD CLOSED signs not convincing enough?

Please. During times of deep water and heavy rain, the people trying to get motorists from Point A to Point B have all they can handle. The road is closed.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


15 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Road Closed”

  1. Having worked as a Paramedic for 30-years, I fully understand and feel your pain. My favorite is when we attempt to land a helicopter on a simple two lane road and have closed the highway. In the springtime we have the usual river floods and road closures as well. I hear at least one person say, “I have to get home this way.” Like there is no other way? The worst of it is when you have erected the barricades because of flooding, which because of our elevation, can refreeze at night then some fool comes along and moves the barricades because he is too lazy to drive around (you have too many to have personnel at all of these locations) and the next person comes along and gets stuck or gets swept away.

    Thanks for this and take care

    • David, I put an armed guard on a road to keep it clear of people while we were trying to get an ambulance to someone who was bleeding out.

      Someone asked me, “You were going to have someone shot to save someone?”

      The dying person had a 50-50 chance of being an idiot. We already knew those people impeding the ambulance were. The thing was the dying man was a local. The same people getting in the way might have known him.

      That was one of my first wrecks. I had no idea.

  2. Few years ago a local couple were driving home and came to a flooded road,saw that it might not be safe to drive over. They were less than a 1/2 mile from home,so they parked their car and decided to wade across being there was a guard rail to hold on to. The problem is they had a child less than a year old in one of those infant car seat with the handle to carry it by. About half way the man lost his footing,fell, and dropped the car seat. Long story short, they never found the seat or the child.

  3. Totally agree with this story, Mike. Years ago, I worked as a flagman in paving and cars would drive wild up to the signs and the flags bound and determined to get through no matter what.

  4. I’ve said this many times. Many times here, in fact.

    If you live or build in a flood plain you are an idiot.
    If you can get and don’t have flood insurance you are “the R word”.
    There are maps available.

    If you live BELOW sea-level you are stupider than a moron.

    So Mike, I only agree with you in the sense that more stupid people die from water. And I pity the kids and critters, not the decision makers. They are the Darwin Award nominees.

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