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Hanging on for Safety in a Flash Flood

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When flash flooding hit a small town, an OnStar Advisor helped one Member stay safe above the raging waters

Tammy Chervitz just wanted to drive to the airport for a business trip. One Monday morning in August, the financial analyst was leaving her subdivision in her small town, when she noticed some water on the road. It was raining, so Tammy thought nothing of it and kept driving. But as the road dipped down, Tammy realized she had unknowingly driven her 2018 GMC Acadia into deep water.

It was a flash flood. Tammy knows never to drive into standing water, but this flood caught her by surprise. “It’s a spot that’s never flooded. All the neighbours said they’ve never seen anything like this,” she says. “What’s normally a road was actually a river.”

Tammy tried to call her husband, but she didn’t have a signal on her cell phone. “He had no idea I was stuck down there. So I looked up at the button and I thought, ‘This is why I have OnStar.’”

Tammy was immediately connected with an OnStar Emergency-Certified Advisor*41 who contacted emergency services and tried to reach Tammy’s husband.*12 He also began giving her advice on how to stay safe in the floodwaters.

“The first thing he told me was, ‘You have to get the window down so you can get out,’” Tammy recalls. Then the Advisor told her to look for a safe spot outside of the vehicle she could climb to in case the vehicle started to move in the rushing waters.

“The thought of leaving your car and going into the water was absolutely not what you want to do,” she recalls. So she sat in the open car window for about 20 minutes, ready to leave if the vehicle moved. The OnStar Advisor stayed on the line with Tammy the whole time.

Emergency services soon responded, but they were on the opposite side of the fast-flowing waters from Tammy, meaning they couldn’t immediately see her — and didn’t have a way to reach her. They requested a boat to help, but weren’t sure whether they’d be able to cross the fast-flowing currents to reach Tammy.

When Tammy felt her Acadia begin to shift in the floodwaters, she left her vehicle and found a tree nearby to grab on to. And just in time. “It was probably within five minutes that the current picked the car up and took it,” she says.

Tammy clung on to the tree in the rushing, waist-deep water and pouring rain, hoping someone would be able to help her. “I’m thinking, ‘No one can get to me until the rain stops and the water goes down,’” she says.

At first, Tammy’s car came to rest against a signpost. But within minutes, the post broke and her vehicle was washed away by the current. “If I’d still been in that car I would have drowned,” Tammy says.

Suddenly, she saw another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction of the first responders. It was her husband, Chuck, riding in a neighbour’s off-road vehicle. Their neighbour jumped into the water and attached the vehicle’s winch rope to a nearby tree. He then helped Tammy cross the water and Chuck pulled her into the truck — and to safety.

“Chuck was very distraught thinking I was submerged in the car and I was drowning,” she recalls. “We both kind of lost it after we knew I was safe.”

Only an hour later, the waters subsided. But by then the flash flood had wreaked havoc on the town, closing schools and washing debris through backyards. “The area looked like a warzone,” Tammy says.

Tammy has been an OnStar Member since 2003 and says she has always appreciated the added peace of mind of knowing the service would be there in a crisis.

“I’ve had OnStar for years and I keep it on all my vehicles,” she says. “I’ve mostly used it for the monthly email diagnostics reports,*17 but I never expected to have to use it for an emergency.”

Tammy is grateful she had OnStar during the flash flood. “The Advisor was calm, and he was telling me things you wouldn’t think to do normally,” she says.