Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the coast of Florida, and residents are making last minute plans to either hunker down or evacuate. With Category 2 Hurricane Nicole boiling just behind it, it’s the first time since September 10, 1964 that two Category 2 (or stronger) hurricanes have occurred simultaneously in the Atlantic basin west of 65W. Here are some tips to consider if you find yourself driving during a hurricane:
Don’t Do It
The best advice we can give when driving in a hurricane is to not do it at all when wind and rain are lashing the region.
If conditions are as bad as they’re supposed to be, you’re better off sheltering in place, rather than driving around.
If you’re in the path of a hurricane, chances are pretty good that communication services are going to experience some kind of interruption. It’s a good idea to break out your paper maps so you’ve got a backup for your GPS.
Load up your phone with a few Car Talk podcasts to make the journey a little more pleasant, because you’re probably going to hit some traffic, too.
Pack a Bag
If you don’t have one already, a small emergency kit can be a literal lifesaver. You don’t need to consume the entire cargo area with stuff, but a small duffel bag with a flashlight, a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, some rain gear, duct tape and a basic grab bag of tools is a good idea.
Assemble it and leave it back there after the storm passes. No need to go out shopping (if you can even find someplace that’s open), most of this gear you probably already have around the house.
Food and Water
Nonperishable, prepared food is a great idea to bring along if you’ve got it in the house. You’ve probably got a cabinet full of granola bars, cereal, Pop Tarts and raisins that can help sustain you and those around you in an emergency. Canned foods like beans and tuna are great, provided you brought a can opener. And you can’t beat peanut butter.
Even more important is water. No need to get fancy: a couple of milk jugs filled out of the tap are fine. If you’ve got kids, you’ve probably got juice boxes, which are also good emergency liquid supplies.
Watch the Wind
Sustained winds can have disastrous effects on vehicles in motion. Depending on what kind of vehicle you’re driving, wind can easily knock you out of your lane, and in extreme conditions can roll taller vehicles over.
The best advice during periods of high sustained winds is to keep your speed as low as possible, if you can’t stop entirely. And it’s not just the wind that’s an issue: it’s the debris that comes along with it that can be extremely dangerous.
Avoid Driving In Heavy Rain
Tropical storms and hurricanes can drop a staggering volume of rain in a short period. During Tropical Storm Claudette, meteorologists observed rainfall measuring six inches per hour, with a total of 43 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.
The most immediate concern is vision. You simply can’t see well enough to drive during torrential rainfall, and your wipers can’t move that volume of water. During peak rainfall, the best advice is to find a safe place to stop until you can see again. Pulling off to the side of the highway may not be the safest place. Look for a parking lot, a rest area, a weigh station or any other patch of land that gets you well out of the path of other drivers who are trying to drive through the rain.
DO NOT DRIVE IN DEEP WATER
This Wikihow article is insane. The NOAA says that drowning is the number one cause of death in any thunderstorm, and that more than half of those drownings occur when drivers attempt to cross deep water.
Footage of every single major storm now comes with a clip of a driver trying to navigate a flooded roadway. Don’t do it. It takes just 12 inches of moving water to levitate a small car. Twenty-four inches of water will carry away just about any vehicle on the road. The concern is that you have no idea how deep that water is, or how quickly it’s rising. It’s better to be late to your destination than to never make it at all.
Stay safe, Florida, and keep us posted when you get to your destination.