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The Smart Way to Evacuate During a Hurricane

Hurricane evacuation route with sign
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Hurricane Sally left much of Florida flooded this week–and the season isn’t over yet. This year, storms have been so active that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration just ran out of names! Tropical Storm Wilfred claimed the last of the list, and the NOAA will use the letters of the Greek alphabet, beginning with Alpha, for the remainder of the year.

What does that have to do with traffic? If you’re in an area that’s vulnerable to hurricanes: everything.

Too many people play chicken with the weather, ignoring evacuation orders until the last possible second. This creates massive traffic jams, such as the Hurricane Rita exodus that left hundreds of thousands of Texans stuck in traffic for hours on end.

How can you avoid a similar fate? By being smart and planning ahead.

Prep Your Vehicle

Before hurricane season begins, check your emergency car supplies to make sure that everything is ready to go. It’s much easier–and cheaper–to get supplies before an emergency hits. At minimum, you should have a couple of gallons of drinking water, some non-perishable food, a blanket, a tarp, and a flashlight.

Don’t put off routine maintenance on your vehicle, either. Keep the oil changed and the tires in good condition. During hurricane season, it’s a good move to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. You don’t want to be stuck on empty as everyone tries to leave town. The pumps will be packed–and may even run out.

Listen to Official Orders

The reason natural disasters cause traffic jams is that too many people wait until the last possible second to leave. They’re waiting to see if the storm won’t be as bad as predicted. Sometimes, they’re right. But on the occasions when the storm is too strong to withstand, they end up creating an easily avoidable problem.

Don’t be like those people. If local authorities recommend evacuating, then you should follow their advice. If the order is to stay indoors and keep off the roads, you should respect that, too. Driving conditions might not be safe, especially if there’s heavy rain or flooding. It takes a surprisingly shallow amount of running water to wash away a vehicle.

Make a Plan and Follow It

A disaster plan includes responsibilities for every member of the household. Even young children can be responsible for grabbing their favorite toy or carrying a small backpack containing snacks and games. Make sure that your plan includes how to get any pets safely into your vehicle. Cats and other small pets should ride in carriers, not loose in the cabin.

Take just one vehicle for your household. Park any remaining vehicles in a garage or covered space, if possible, and always set the emergency brake. It’s a good idea to take the registration and title of all vehicles with you just in case the worst happens.

Before the disaster strikes, study the evacuation routes in your area. Practice driving them if you can. There will always be multiple options to escape the path of a hurricane.

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