Heavy rains that hit the San Antonio area can lead to flooding that might drown motorists. One country singer wants to do his part to help save their lives.
Originally published on Aug. 9, 2018.
Late summer remnants of tropical storms can produce rapid or flash flooding, resulting in drownings by motorists at low water crossings, said Paul Yura, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in New Braunfels.
Yura said flash flooding claimed 26 lives in 2015 in 33 south-central Texas counties, including Bexar.
To help prevent future deaths, a South Texas country singer wrote a jingle for the National Weather Service to tie in with its “Turn Around Don’t Drown” campaign. A music video at the NWS website was released in July.
WATCH | 'Turn Around, Don't Drown' music video, featuring Matt Hawk
“We can have nine to 10 months of no rain, then suddenly get a torrential downpour, causing widespread flooding,” said Matt Hawk, a country singer from Lytle. “People get amnesia about the danger, especially adults, who have a thousand things on their minds and take to the roads by habit without thinking.”
Hawk said he donated his short song called “Turn Around Don’t Drown” after 18-year old Alyssa Ramirez drowned in nearby Devine while driving home from prom in May 2015. Her car was swept off FM 2200 West after Hondo Creek overflowed its banks, the Medina County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Hawk said Ramirez, who was close in age to his daughter, was less than a mile from home at the time of the accident.
“Hey y’all, remember if you up come up to a low-water crossing, and it's flooded, turn around and don’t drown. It only takes 12 inches of water to sweep your vehicle away,” he said in a public service announcement that accompanies the video.
The National Weather Service, which launched the program 15 years ago, reports around 100 people die each year in flooding in the U.S., with half of those deaths related to motor vehicles.
Along with the English version, Hawk also produced a version of the jingle in Spanish, which he promises is just as catchy.
“I wrote the song with children in mind,” he said. “If we can get children singing this upbeat, fun song, they can pressure their parents to make the right decision in a light-hearted way, and maybe save a carload of people or two.”
WATCH | 'Dé la vuelta, no se ahogue' con Matt Hawk y Flaco Jiménez
A San Antonio Fire Department spokesperson said the last death at a low-water crossing within city limits was in 2015. The San Antonio-Express News reported 79-year old Wanda Jean Fisher died after her vehicle was swept away by a rising Leon Creek at Interstate-35 and Cassin Road.
The NWS reported it was the same storm system that led to the death of Ramirez.
The fire department also reported high water rescues typically occur when motorists go around barricades. Fire department spokesman Woody Woodward said that drivers caught going around a barricade who require rescue from flood waters can be fined up to $2,000 and sentenced up to 120 days in jail. Each passenger of a submerged vehicle that must be rescued can be charged a fee of $640.