Driving after a storm
Superstorm Sandy left a wake of destruction, leaving millions without power. Many people are now emerging from debris-strewn neighborhoods, seeking supplies or trying to return to work. Even though roads are becoming increasingly passable, there are real dangers. The following tips will help keep you and fellow motorists safe.
Don’t start a wet engine. If the car is parked in a flooded situation, or stalls in deep water, turning it on can do serious engine damage.
Call your insurance company if the car was damaged by the storm. Take photos of the vehicle and context, showing the area around the car. Having visual evidence of how the damaged occurred may help with processing the claim. (Learn more about car insurance.)
Add an emergency kit to the car. Because you truly don’t know what you’ll face driving through storm-damaged areas, toss an emergency kit in the car. We recommend: a first-aid kit, reflective hazard triangle or flares, tire-pressure gauge, foam tire sealant or a portable compressor and plug, spare fuses, flashlight, gloves, auto-club card or roadside assistance number, $20 in cash, and blanket. And bring a cell phone; the drive can be a good time to recharge your personal electronic devices.
Keep speeds low, courtesy high. This has been a stressful time for everyone in the hurricane zone, so travel slowly—you never know what obstacles you may face—and be extra patient. Be kind to others, be predictable, and follow the laws.
Avoid driving through standing water. During most storms, a puddle is just an opportunity to splash, but after a hurricane or heavy storm, it can conceal deep potholes and tire-puncturing debris.
Don’t assume road debris is just sticks and leaves. Many roads are covered with all manner of plant debris from the winds, but within that mess can be nails and other objects unfriendly to tires. Keep in mind, traveling just after a storm has a higher likelihood of experiencing a flat tire.
Wet brakes can take longer to slow a vehicle. After driving through large puddles, lightly apply the brake pedal to dry the brakes off.
Beware dark stop lights and intersections. With many areas still without power, intersections that are normally well light and/or have traffic lights, may be non-operating and dark. Don’t see this as an opportunity to speed on through, rather exercise caution and courtesy. There may be line workers present, pedestrians, or distracted drivers. Come to a complete stop, survey the surroundings, make eye contact with other motorists, and give a friendly wave before advancing.
Don’t drive under fallen trees. Many trees have fallen during the storm, resting across power lines. While it may be tempting to driving under a tree that is arching over the road, don’t do it. It may look safe, but it is mere chance that is holding the tree in its position. Further, power lines may or may not have electricity coursing through them. Even if you avoid driving on the lines, a wind gust could blow an unseen wire into contact with your car.
Watch out for pedestrians. Many people are simply walking their neighborhood streets to assess damage, check in on friends, and get a little exercise. People are more likely to be literally in the streets, as sidewalks may be blocked, and the reduced traffic may encourage them to be less cautious.
Get your car ready for bad weather
How to drive safely in heavy rain and wind
In Sandy’s wake, roll up your sleeves–for possible fight with your home insurer
Finding clean water after a flood
Food safety when the power goes out
To get through an emergency, how big a generator do you need?