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This advice can play a key role in helping your car get through a natural disaster
When a hurricane or strong storm system hits your area, people are affected in a wide range of ways, from direct home damage and power loss to the interruption of goods and services. The most important tip is knowing that extreme weather is no place for driving.
Risks such as hydroplaning and striking unexpected submerged objects in deep puddles are too real, and emergency services will have their hands full. Don’t add to their challenges.
That said, here are some things to consider.
Fill the gas tank. If your area loses power for days, it may be essential to drive to shelter or travel to obtain services. In good weather, that is an easy task, but when millions of other people also need a hotel, the distance you must drive can be considerable. And in the end, you may end up sleeping in the car.
Install new windshield wipers. It’s best to replace your wiper blades so you don’t get stuck with a streaky, obscured windshield. But, if you can’t get any before the storm, at least freshen the existing ones by wiping with a paper towel moistened with window cleaner. In our tests, we have found that this simple action can often add months of service.
Check the tire pressure, including the spare. When it is time to go, you don’t want a simple flat tire to hold you back. If debris litters the streets, the chance of a tire puncture is much greater.
Pack a go-bag. It is highly recommended that each family member prepare a go-bag. Likewise, you should have a go-bag in the car, with cash (ATMs may be empty or not have any power), water, food, clothes, and other living essentials, including medications, in case you have the need to bolt. Should the house sustain significant damage, you can’t count on being able to retrieve everything that you might otherwise want for travel.
Bring along maps. In the event your cell phone battery dies or you can’t get a strong enough signal to run Google Maps or Waze, you may want to consider having a paper regional map with you. You can even mark it up with an evacuation route copied from your state government’s website.
Consider a car charger. A cell phone can provide a vital lifeline to friends, family, and emergency services. Should the neighborhood lose power, make sure you have a charger in the car to power up your phone.
Don’t forget a battery jump starter. In addition to jump-starting your car’s battery, a battery jump starter can also be used to recharge portable devices, such as mobile phones and tablets.
Check the car windows. It seems simple, but it is important. Make sure the windows and sunroof are all closed tight.
Take pictures. This goes for the car, as well as the house. Snap a few before pictures in case you need to prove damage was caused by the storm.
Park on high ground. Doing this will help you remove some of the risk of flooding. A water-damaged car is an expensive, disappointing boat anchor.
Protect the garage. In the South, modern homes are built to hurricane codes, with structures and even garage doors engineered to withstand harsh storms. If that’s not the case where you live, consider parking your car outside, tight against the garage door—sideways—to block high-speed winds and hopefully preserve the door’s integrity. Should true hurricane-force winds break through the garage door, the storm can do serious structural damage. With an attached garage, that damage can quickly translate to the house.
Protect insurance paperwork. If possible, keep a copy of the car insurance paperwork in a zip-top bag within your go bag. Should the car be damaged, don’t delay calling the insurance company for days. Chances are, you’re not alone, and the local repair shops will quickly be booked up.
Evacuate with caution. If you decide to drive away from the storm, before the harsh winds arrive, drive safely. Don’t speed, especially in the rain. The faster you drive, the greater the risk of hydroplaning—when water causes a vehicle’s tires to lift off the road surface. Stick to major roads.
According to Myles Mitchom, spokesman for State Farm Insurance, it’s important to simply avoid flooded areas, especially ones with rapid water flow. “Keep things safe and simple, (and) reschedule your plans if you’re aware of flooding in the area,” he says. “If flooding occurs when you’re on the road, stay on high ground.” He added that it’s important to remember not to camp or park your vehicle along streams or washes, especially when conditions are threatening.
Avoid shortcuts. They are more likely to have problems, especially after the storm (trees down, flooding), and less likely to have emergency workers keeping the road clear. Try to limit the family to one car, so as to minimize road congestion. And stay away from flooded areas and downed power lines.
With some quick preparation, your car can play a key role in weathering the storm. Good luck.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit ready.gov and fema.gov.
I owe my career to two fateful events: my father buying a 1965 Corvette and my purchase of an Audi A4 rather than a Chevy Tahoe. The Corvette jump-started my love of cars, and the Audi led me to automotive journalism, track days, and amateur car repair. In my free time I cycle as much as possible, no matter the season.
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