Hurricane Driving: Top 5 Safety Tips

Here are the top 5 things you should know about preparing for and driving through intense storms.

How to avoid a hurricane

With 11 named storms already in the books and 18 total predicted for the year, the 2010 hurricane season, although more than halfway through, is (literally) picking up speed. And to make matters worse, weather.com is forecasting that the next month or 2 of hurricanes will pose a particular threat to the U.S.

But no need to panic. Honestly. As with most things, the best way to handle a hurricane is to be prepared. That said, we put together a short list of things you should know about preparing for and driving through intense storms.

Here are the top 5 most-important hurricane driving tips to know:

Be hurricane prepared.

The best way to be prepared is to be prepared. If you’re in a hurricane-prone area, check local weather and newscasts regularly, and be ready to leave even before an official evacuation is ordered. Keep your gas tank full and your bag of essentials packed. Most importantly, don’t wait until the last minute to make your way out of town. If you procrastinate, you risk being stuck in traffic as the storm intensifies around you. (Not good!)

Be hurricane prepared.

We really can’t say it enough. If you live in a place all too familiar with names like Igor, Hugo, and Andrew, put together a hurricane kit and make sure it’s easily accessible. It may sound like paranoia to you now, but you’ll thank yourself for being so crazy if you ever need it. The Red Cross recommends including obvious things, like fresh water, food, and flashlights, as well as some not-so-obvious items, like pet supplies, games for the kids, and liquid bleach. Build your preparedness kit.

Be smart when the hurricane hits.

If, in spite of all your preparation, you find yourself on the road when a hurricane hits, use your noggin (and WSJ Blogs) to stay safe:

  1. Stay in your car and try to find shelter — an overpass or parking garage — if you can.
  2. When possible, avoid driving through water, which can hide dangers, damage your engine, or even carry your vehicle away.
  3. Watch out for wires that have been knocked down in the storm. You could get stuck driving through them, and worse, they could make rescue impossible.

Be aware of your surroundings.

When you’re on the road during a storm, it’s essential to remain aware of what’s around you. Because of their increased surface area, larger vehicles, trailers, big trucks, and buses are actually more vulnerable when driving in high winds. Keep your eyes out for big vehicles and maintain more of a distance than you normally would.

Be a hurricane driving pro.

As you head away from the storm, it may be tempting to set the cruise control and go. Don’t. Cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate during a hydroplane, making a bad situation worse in just seconds. If you hydroplane, let off the gas slowly and steer straight until your tires find the road again. Don’t slam on the brakes or turn the steering wheel. Once you regain traction, lightly tap the brake pedal to help dry the brakes.

And of course, if it’s raining so hard that you can’t see the road or the car in front of you, pull over and wait it out.

When it comes to hurricanes, your best bet is to steer clear of danger altogether. If you find yourself caught in a big storm during the next few months, however, keep these tips in mind to avoid the worst and stay safe on the road.

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