Home > Los Angeles, Reflections > Hydroplane


Downpours flooded SoCal streets yesterday, but all had mostly dried up by mid-morning today. This meant I was unconcerned when I set out for a meeting.

Trouble struck when I tried getting onto the freeway. Turning sharply onto the ramp that’d deposit me on the freeway 20 or so feet below, I found my car suddenly floating just above the road. My steering wheel did its own thing.

First, my car veered right toward foliage. I didn’t dare try countering the pull, because I felt like flipping was inevitable.

The car then veered left, taking me precariously close to the thin metal barrier that kept me from tumbling down onto the road below. I kept my hands poised above the steering wheel, ready to seize it when it seemed ready to respond to my touch (without flipping my car). 

I managed to miss the barrier by a few inches and steer myself safely down the ramp. My heart raced as I drove northward and contemplated the possibility of different outcomes.

The next 30 minutes, I found myself appreciating with new clarity how tenuous is the connection between tire and road. Every skid and shudder had me on alert.

Ultimately, I made it safely to my destination. My return trip was pleasant. Now, safe at home, I’ll be content to drive nowhere else this long weekend …

Categories: Los Angeles, Reflections Tags: ,
  1. February 18, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    I’m really glad you’re OK.

  2. February 18, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a frightening experience! I am so glad you’re home safe โค Take care!

    • February 18, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      Thanks! I’m happy my remaining weekend travels will only carry me 2-3 (not 20 or 30 highway-requiring) miles away. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. February 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Wow! Glad you’re safe! Scary!

  4. February 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I am so glad you navigated that and are safe at home!

    • February 18, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      Thanks! Afterward, I tried breaking down what I did and why I did it, but it’s not the logical brain that guides in such moments. (Good thing, too, with how slow it rolls! :p)

  5. February 18, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Just the other day, I was thinking about a trip with my mother. I was not a driver yet and we were new to Florida. All of the sudden the rains came and she couldn’t see out the window. I remember the water rising and she contemplated pulling over to wait it out or driving on so we didn’t hydroplane. It was a long time ago, but as I remember, we waited it out. Funny thing about Florida rains, they last 15 minutes at most (assuming it’s not a hurricane).

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:01 am

      My godmother happened to be going to Florida right as she left me a voicemail a year or two ago. She made a like comment about the swiftness of Florida storms (coming and going), so that I’m grinning looking at your comment … and remembering.

  6. February 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Pretty scary. It’s such a sickening feeling to not be in control of your car. Glad you made it out OK.

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:04 am

      Hear, hear! The only other time I experienced that, it was snowing and icy in my second Japanese locale. I was driving about 5 miles an hour (right along with everyone else!), so it didn’t hit me quite the same way, even though I’d pretty much only just gotten my license. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • February 19, 2017 at 4:25 am

        Living in NH (and growing up in northern Ohio) I have slid on the ice a lot, but for some reason the hydroplaning is scarier – perhaps because it usually happens at highway speed (the one time it happened to me I was going almost 70, heavy traffic and totally lost control – I took my foot of the accelerator and it finally reached a speed where the wheels caught again).

  7. Deb
    February 18, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Weirdest feeling ever, that floating car sensation. Thankfully all is well and safe ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. February 18, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Eep! Scary!

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

      I called Anthony only after I’d gotten the shakes out of my system! (If I’d been wise, I’d have called you, too, but it only occurred to me 25 minutes ago that I hadn’t actually called you with the fam as hoped … d’oh!)

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:52 am

      Rache, you should look a few comments down! There’s one about Jorvik. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. February 18, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    It feel scary, when the car doesn’t follow our command. Please get your tires checked, Deborah ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy, that you are okay.

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:06 am

      I get my oil changed about every three months, and one of the things they check is my tires … all the same, I’m pretty sure I’m coming up on 60k miles since my last tire change. I’ll ask for special attention to my tires when I go in the next couple of weeks–thanks!

      • February 19, 2017 at 12:15 am

        Good to hear, that you are taking good care of your car for yours and your family’s safety, Deborah.
        You can test with a sizer for yourself, how deep your tires are and then look up the rules in inch. I only know how much in cm in Europe.

        • February 23, 2017 at 10:50 pm

          First thing I did when she got home was to walk around her car and do a visual. Then I did the penny test, which she passed. She had plenty of tread; it’s more of a danger in LA whenever we get lots of rain really fast–water sits on all the oil/petrol that sits on our roadways for literal months and if you catch it wrong, you never actually touch the road. Worse, still, since we don’t get rain that often, we get huge puddles that don’t run off–and bam–same problem. It’s like black ice, but without the ice.

          • February 23, 2017 at 11:43 pm

            I come from a cold country, where we had a lot of this kind of weather, so I learned early to take much care too.
            Good to hear, that you checked the car too ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. February 18, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Here in England we get wet roads all the time ~ you learn to live with it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • February 19, 2017 at 12:13 am

      My first time experiencing hydroplaning was actually in England! My sister was wrapping up her graduate studies at Cambridge, and we took a break from packing to day trip to Jorvik. Downpour struck while we were returning; happily, the driver (Rache’s dear friend, Lisa) was an expert driver, having learned from (and married) a professional driving instructor. Her expertise shone as she calmly navigated near-zero visibility … and hydroplaning.

      I’m from Oregon, where it rains a ton, but I only actually drove there for about two years. After nearly a decade back here, I’ve lost the intuitive knack for handling wet roads! I mean, I drive in the rain at least once every few months most the time, but it’s not enough to maintain the deep knowledge of handling the rain that comes with driving in it daily. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. February 19, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Glad you made it out without incident. Hydroplaning is terrifying.

  12. February 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I was hanging on for dear life with this post Deborah. It would be an awful feeling losing control. You did amazing to listen to your instinct to arrive home safely.

    In Canada it is the norm to use snow tires in the winter. They are a softer rubber and deeper tread which helps grip the snow and even helps channel the water away during heavier rains in the fall and spring. We change over to summer tires in the summer. With the softer rubber and summer heat the winter tires tend to wear out very fast if left on throughout the summer. (which would make them impractical in Southern California).

    Even then I have been in a lot of scary situations with winter tires, particularly when it is freezing rain and everything is glare ice.

    Glad you are okay! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. February 20, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    You guys are getting lots of rain out there, be safe! I’m happy that you are okay.๐Ÿ’—

  14. February 21, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I’m glad you’re safe!

  15. Rainy
    February 22, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Terrifying! I’m glad you are ok. I pretty much just refused to drive anywhere, fortunately nobody had any babies so that worked out…

  16. February 27, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Thank God you’re okay. That is absolutely terrifying.

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