Protect Your Vehicle From Storm Damage

Though an alarm probably didn't go off on your bedside table recently to signal its beginning, we are officially in the midst of hurricane season. For people who live on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, that means a storm with 100-mile-an-hour winds could blow up at any moment, and while our hurricane warning systems are now very advanced, making deaths and injuries far less likely than in earlier decades, sudden, damaging winds and rain squalls can still play havoc with people's lives and property. One largely untold result of a serious hurricane is the devastating damage wrought on vehicles abandoned in the face of the storm.

The key to protecting yourself, your family and your vehicles in a hurricane is preparation. If your hometown is in the hurricane zone, you should ask yourself: are you prepared to evacuate? In the face of threatening weather, it's easy to forget about safeguarding your vehicle, but that car, minivan or sport-utility vehicle might become your most important lifeline.

"Preparing your home and ensuring your personal safety are more important than saving a vehicle, but you can minimize damage with a few precautions," said Bob Rose, general manager for Progressive, one of the nation's largest auto insurers.

Driving Today and Progressive offer these tips for drivers who might be affected by an impending hurricane or tropical storm:
  • Prepare to leave the area and leave well before the storm hits. It's natural to want to stay and protect your property in the face of a storm, but such acts of courage often turn deadly. Winds can become dangerously strong well before the storm comes ashore, so as you make final preparations, keep your vehicles away from trees, telephone poles, carports and other objects that may be under stress from high winds.

  • Fill 'er up. Fill your vehicle with gasoline as soon as possible to avoid the long lines that could delay your departure to safety.

  • Take important documents. Place your auto/home insurance documents, vehicle registration and title in a waterproof bag and take them with you.

  • Plan for the trip. Bring a flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, cash and credit cards, water and food. Remember, you could end up spending substantial amounts of time in your vehicle.

  • Prepare in advance. Pick up a hurricane planning guide/map or listen to the radio to identify your evacuation route, secure your property and head for safer ground before the storm hits.

  • Beware of live wires as you drive away from the danger of the storm. Do not, under any circumstances, drive over a downed electrical line.

  • Remember that flooded streets can be deadly. Do not drive on a road submerged in water; underlying currents could carry your vehicle away or you could encounter a dangerous sinkhole. If your vehicle stalls in water, immediately abandon it -- floodwaters can rise several feet in a matter of minutes. Don't try to start or move a flooded vehicle; you could cause more damage than the water already has.

  • Call your insurance company immediately to report a claim once you have reached safety.
With these tips in mind, you and your vehicles can survive the ravages of summer storms and hurricanes.

Auto journalist Luigi Fraschini has survived a Florida hurricane, keeping both his life and his vehicle intact.