The weather forecast is grim as it reveals a hurricane approaching your area. We know that hurricane tracking isn’t always precise, but if your home is potentially within the affected zone, you need to prepare yourself and your car for a safe escape. If it is time to evacuate your vehicle needs to be ready to hit the road. Here’s a few tips on how to get out of harm’s way before a hurricane or other strong storm hits.
Before Storm Season
Before storm season comes around spend some time putting together a personalized evacuation plan. Pick a destination away from typical storm paths and familiarize yourself with the driving route. Find out which friends or relatives would be willing to host you in the event of an emergency. If staying with friends or family isn’t an option pick a destination that has several hotels to choose from so you can get a room. Put together a plan for your pets for either traveling or boarding in a safe area. If your area is especially storm prone consider packing a “go bag” filled with clothes and necessities should you have to leave suddenly. Make a family action plan so everyone knows what job they are to do when the time comes.
Prepare to Leave
Hopefully you have been keeping up with the weather forecast and are aware of any impending tropical storms or hurricanes heading for your area. But sometimes a tropical storm can grow into a fierce hurricane overnight leaving you to scramble. With time being of the essence, here’s how to make your move as quickly as possible:
- Determine where to go. The degree of preparation required will depend a lot on where you plan to wait out the storm. If you’re traveling to a shelter across town, fill the fuel tank (or charge your EV battery), check tire pressure and replenish the emergency kit. For longer trips, such as staying in a hotel hours away or with a friend across the state, you’ll need to do more comprehensive planning. Map out a primary route and several alternatives in case of flooded roads or downed trees and power lines.
- Replenish all fluids. Your safe place destination may only be 100 miles away, but it might take many hours to get there, especially if traffic is heavy and the alternate routes are also busy or detoured. Such delays can take a toll on your car, especially the cooling system. Check all fluids before you leave, including oil, brake, transmission, radiator and windshield, and replenish as necessary. Bring extra fluid if you know there is a leak. If worn, replace the windshield wipers.
- Examine the battery. Ensure that the car battery is clean and in working order. Remove any corrosion build-up and secure clamps to the proper post. Use a multimeter to verify the battery has a sufficient charge. Replace if necessary, and bring a set of jumper cables with you. A battery jump box is also an excellent idea. If you have an electric vehicle make sure it is fully charged and keep it on the charger as long as possible until you are ready to leave. Take advantage of grid power to pre-condition the passenger cabin temperature. EV owners should also bring along a portable battery charger if one is available, as public charging stations may be at a premium along your route.
- Check your tires. Your tires should have sufficient air in them before you head out. If they are showing signs of wear, rotate them. Check your spare tire air for proper air pressure and intact tread. Ensure the emergency jack and lug nut wrench are in place. A flat-tire repair kit, gloves, wheel wedges, flares and reflective triangles are also useful to have.
- Bring flashlights and batteries. A working flashlight with backup batteries is a must. Along with your fully charged cellphone, bring a USB cable and a backup cellphone battery or charger. Some battery jump starter packs also double as a power bank.
- Complete a walkaround. With someone assisting, perform a walkaround of the car, checking that all lights are working. These include headlights, daytime running lights, fog lamps, turn signals, brake lights and, if you’re towing a trailer, trailer lights. Extra fuses can come in handy. Store these in your glove box.
- Load with care. Bring only the items you need with you. Evenly distribute the weight throughout the vehicle for ideal handling and control. For every extra 100 pounds in your car, fuel economy falls by about 1 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The same applies to electric vehicles as a lighter vehicle will have greater range.
- Hit the road. Bring insurance documentation for your car and house. Bring some cash along in case credit card communications are out. Head out as soon as you have secured your home, finalized arrangements for your pets and packed your vehicle. Track the hurricane through the radio or your cellphone in the event the storm changes course or increases intensity. If you come across flooded roads, turn around. Do NOT attempt to drive through flooded roadways as they can hide much deeper water and strong currents that can sweep away a vehicle.
If possible make this list part of your action plan and delegate to members of your family or friends. While one person is checking the tires another can be loading the car. Most importantly listen to local authorities. If your area calls for an evacuation, take it seriously as hurricanes can be unpredictably dangerous.
At Your Destination
When you arrive at your destination, secure your car. Park it away from potentially falling trees, rising water and flying debris. The last thing you want is a flood-damaged vehicle.
Once the threat passes, verify that it is safe to return home. Prepare your car for the return trip, repeating the previous steps as necessary.
Check out all the safety products available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on hurricane tracking and vehicle preparation, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.