The danger isn’t always over when the winds die down. Learn how to drive home safely after a tornado or hurricane.
Driving immediately after a hurricane or a tornado could be a bad idea. But there are times when you absolutely must get on the road. When that’s the case, you need to take extra precaution and keep in mind some post-storm driving safety procedures to ensure you and your family get safe and sound from point A to point B.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Be prepared for the worst, including the possibility of being stranded on the road. If possible, fill your tank with gas you have at home. If you can take additional gas with you, even better. Pack a car emergency kit to stow in your trunk that includes extras like flashlight, first aid kit, water, and warm clothes.
Drive with Extreme Caution
Road conditions after a damaging tornado or hurricane are wildly unpredictable. Proceed slowly and carefully to avoid driving over storm-blown debris like tree branches, metal, or broken glass that could damage your vehicle. Also be aware of dangers above like low-hanging branches, damaged overpasses, and dangling power lines.
Because roads and cars could be damaged, more people are likely to be walking on roadways too, so keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians and anyone who could be injured. Traffic lights may also be out, so take extra precaution at intersections, obey all road signs, and always give the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
Don’t Drive Through Floodwaters
Storm surges and torrential rains from a hurricane or severe storms can cause serious flooding. In the United States, floods take more lives than any other natural disaster, and more than half of flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle tries to drive through floodwaters.2 Never drive through a road with standing or rushing water, even if it doesn’t look that deep. The water depth can be deceiving, and it’s extremely dangerous at even the shallowest of depths:
6 inches of water can cause a vehicle to lose control or stall
1 foot of water will float many vehicles
2 feet of rushing water will carry away most cars, trucks, and SUVs3
Instead, obey all road closure signs and find alternate routes to your destination if you come upon any signs of flooding.
Did you know just 1 foot of floodwater can float many vehicles? We’ll tell you how to drive safely after a damaging storm here.
Stay Away from Downed Power Lines
Under no circumstances should you drive over downed power lines. It’s impossible to tell if a power line is electrified or not, even if you don’t see sparks. While the rubber tires of your car are technically electrical insulators, they’re much too thin to protect you. And even if the downed wire isn’t hot, the cables could get tangled on your tires or in your car’s axle.
If an electrical wire does make contact with your vehicle, follow these safety rules4:
- Stay in the vehicle and call 911.
- If you have to exit the vehicle for safety reasons, never touch the car and the ground at the same time, because the current will pass through your body and into the ground.
- Instead, jump clear of the car in one hop.
- Take small shuffling steps until you are at least 30 feet away from the car.
Pro Tip: Downed power lines that are “dead” can become live again when power to the area is restored. So, if you see any downed power line, stay away.
Stay Informed and Stay in Touch
Tune your car radio to local stations for weather updates and road conditions. If you can’t get an AM/FM radio signal, use your digital hand-crank radio and tune it to your local NOAA weather radio frequency. If you get a cell signal, use your smartphone to check for emergency information. If the cell signal is poor, send text messages to friends and relatives to stay informed and to update them on your location.
There could be a time when you can’t avoid driving after a hurricane or tornado. But if you heed these safety tips and follow the rules of the road, you can get to your destination safely.
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