Florida is a paradise and Orlando is one of its proudest jewels. That’s why millions of tourists — even tourists from other parts of the state — flock here for vacation. Even during hurricane season, the residents of Orlando and surrounding cities, like Kissimmee, Sanford and Ocoee enjoy a small, but comforting buffer from the east coast, where most of the hurricanes affecting Florida make landfall. Nevertheless, while Orlando might be safe from an ocean surge, we still take a beating from the gale-force winds that batter our homes, commercial buildings and even our cars.
Hurricane Car Preparation
If you’ve never experienced a hurricane in Florida, the first rule of hurricane preparation is to take care of yourself and the safety of your family FIRST. Secure your home during preparation time, and then either shelter in place if your home can handle the severe weather or check into a public hurricane shelter. Car preparation for a hurricane is important, but it pales in comparison to the safety of you and your loved ones. However, in the aftermath of a severe storm, you can use your car to power small electronic products and to make emergency runs for food, medicine and other supplies. Therefore, you should incorporate hurricane car preparation into your emergency plan.
When Should Hurricane Preparation Begin
Because of its historic vulnerability to hurricanes, the various news services in the state of Florida frequently remind residents of the approach of hurricane season. 97 percent of Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms occur between June 1 and November 30, with the majority of activity during the middle months of July through September. You should begin taking precautions prior to the start of the Orlando hurricane season. That doesn’t mean you have to prepare in the same way you would if you were under a hurricane watch or a hurricane warning, but if you wait until a hurricane is on its way, you may be competing for lumber, batteries, bottled water and other things that might be scarce in the final days before a hurricane makes landfall. In addition to home preparation, there are also precautions you should take for your car before there’s an immediate threat of a hurricane.
Car Preparation for Hurricane Season
The good news is that most of your hurricane season car preparations entail things that you should be doing for your car, anyway. These include:
•Oil Change — Make certain that your car isn’t overdue for an oil change. Store a quart or two of your car’s motor oil type in the trunk or in your garage. •Fluids — Top off all of your cars fluid’s, including brake fluid, transmission fluid and coolant. If you’re confident with engine maintenance, keep a bottle of each at your house.
• Wiper Blades — Hurricanes tend to bring rain. If you have to drive before or after the storm, it’s imperative that you have good wiper blades. Keep a spare set in your trunk even if the blades on your car are in good working order.
•Battery — Test the charge on your car battery. If it’s close to the end of its warranty life, consider replacing it at the beginning of the hurricane season. •Fuses — Have a full set or two of replacement fuses. Fuses are relatively inexpensive and are available at all automotive stores. •Tires — Check the tread and air pressure on all of your tires, including the spare. Hurricanes spread construction debris for hundreds of miles, so make sure your spare and jack are both in good working order. •Air Intake — Your car should start and run even in a couple of feet of water, but if water levels rise higher than the air intake, your engine won’t be able to draw the air it needs to operate. Find your car’s air intake so you can tell at a glance if it will flood. •Know Your Car’s Driving Range — Do you know how far your car will go on a full tank of gas? In the event that you have to evacuate before or after a storm, it’s important to know how far your car will take you if you can’t find a place to refill. You can determine your car’s range by multiplying the number of gallons the tank will hold by the mileage you get from start-and-stop driving. Don’t use highway mileage estimates, as you’re like to experience heavy traffic volume. Err on the side of caution in estimating your range.
• First Aid Kit — You should keep a first aid kit in your car to treat minor injuries when you’re travelling. If you already have one, make sure it’s filled with bandages, antiseptic and other things to help with the minor cuts and scrapes that you might encounter while clearing a tree or some other type of debris from the road.
•Road Map — Cellular service may not work in the aftermath of a hurricane. Having an Orlando-area or Florida roadmap can be invaluable when trying to find alternate routes. •Car Chargers and USB Adapters — Most newer cars have built-in USB adapters to charge cell phones and other small electronics. If not, you’ll want to have one or more cigarette lighter adapters to charge your phone.
• Gas Cans — Once Florida is under a hurricane watch, gas cans are hard to find. Buy a couple of gas cans if you don’t already have them. DO NOT store gasoline inside your car or home for extended periods. You can fill them up when a storm is on the way, and if Orlando isn’t hit, you can always use the gas in your tank.
•Car Cover — If you don’t have a garage to park your car in or you have too many vehicles to fit in your garage, you may want to consider buying a car cover before the beginning of the Orlando hurricane season. A number of websites will sell you a cover fitted for your specific make and model, or you can get a one-size-fits-all car cover at most automotive supply stores. •Insurance — Make sure that your car insurance is paid and kept up to date. Keep your paperwork and contact numbers in a safe, dry area. Take photographs of the car before the storm in case you need to prove that the damage was actually caused by the storm.
How to Prepare My Car for Hurricane Weather in the Final Hours
Once Orlando, Kissimmee and the other surrounding cities are under a hurricane watch, it’s time to start finalizing your preparations. For your home that, means shuttering or boarding windows, stocking food that doesn’t require electricity or gas to prepare, securing enough bottled water to last for a week or more and buying anything else that you’ll need to survive the storm and the aftermath until all utilities come back on line. But there are separate final preparations that you need to keep your car safe and functional throughout the storm. 1.Fill Up Your Gas Tank — This is probably the single most important step in car preparation for an Orlando hurricane. It’s never safe to drive your car during a hurricane or in the high winds preceding the arrival of a hurricane, but you may need to move to another location once the storm has cleared.
If this happens, you may not be able to find gas. Fill your tank and drive as little as possible before the storm. Fill any gas cans you may have and store them in a place that’s safe from the storm. You can also use your car as a power source to charge your electronics. If necessary, it’s possible to siphon gas from your tank to fill a gasoline generator, but use a pump designed for this purpose.
2.Check Your Motor Oil and Engine Fluids — Perform a final check of your car’s oil, brake fluid and power steering fluid. Top off any fluids that are below the recommended levels. 3.Inventory Your Car — Make certain that all of the items you put in your car at the beginning of the hurricane season are still there and in good working order (i.e. road map, jack, first aid kit, et cetera). 4.Pack a Go Bag — Find a small gym bag that you can toss into the trunk of your car in the event that you have to leave Orlando or head to a shelter. Your bag should contain a change of clothes, toiletries, raingear and anything else that you need to get through a few days away from home. Keep it light and portable. 5.Hand Tools — We recommend that you stay put, but if you absolutely have to leave, you should bring tools for clearing smaller downed tree limbs from your path. These might include a handsaw or chain saw, a rope or chain, work gloves and an axe or a hatchet. Watch for downed powerlines near trees or hidden in standing water. If you see a downed powerline, stay in your car and avoid driving over it or coming in contact with it. 6.Parking Your Car — A covered garage is ideal, but not everyone lives in a home with an enclosed garage. If you don’t have access to a garage or a covered car port, here are some dos and don’ts for keeping your car out of harm’s way during the Orlando hurricane season: •Do protect your vehicle with a car cover. •Don’t park near or under trees that can be blown down and damage your car. •Do park close to a house or building where your car will be protected from the wind. •Don’t park under powerlines. If you see a downed powerline touching your car, don’t attempt to move the line or get in your vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the wire isn’t sparking. Live wires don’t always spark. •Do park on an incline or elevated point, if available, so water flows down and away from your car. •Don’t elevate your car on blocks or jacks. High winds can knock the car off, causing damage. •Do park your car in a place with multiple exit points. •Don’t park your car near bodies of water. 7.Multiple Vehicles — If you have more than one car in your household, you may be able to keep one of them safe at a public garage or storage unit and the other at home. You should determine which one is likely to have the greatest utility if Orlando is hit by a major hurricane. For instance, a four-wheel-drive SUV or truck will probably be safer to drive around in than a small sports car. If you can only prepare one car or truck, choose the one that will help you get around a storm-damaged area.
Car Dangers Before and After a Hurricane
Your car can be a vital tool in the aftermath of a hurricane, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a source of danger to you and your family.
•Don’t Drive — Don’t be caught in your car in a hurricane. You should park and store your car several hours before a hurricane hits. Until local services are restored, drive only when necessary. •Don’t Sleep in Your Car — You may lose power in your home, but sleeping in your car to take advantage of air conditioning is dangerous due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. •Don’t Run Your Car in an Enclosed Garage — If you are using your car as a power source, make sure that there is plenty of ventilation around it. Car exhaust will fill up an enclosed space rapidly, creating a poisonous atmosphere. It can also seep from the garage into your home. For the same reason, don’t run a gas-powered generator indoors.
The Devastating Effects of Hurricane Wind Damage
Even in a tropical storm or a category 1 hurricane, unless your car is parked inside an enclosed garage, it’s much more vulnerable to damage from the high winds of a storm. Direct wind damage is a threat to your vehicle, but its real vulnerability in a hurricane is from flying and falling objects. Even the lower winds of a feeder band can lift objects and send them hurling through the air, which is why you want to protect your car by placing it as close to solid walls as possible. Hurricanes categories are determined by the winds closest to the eye wall — a ring around the eye where the highest winds and precipitation in the storm can be found. The following are the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categories:
Category 1 — Sustained winds of 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h)
Category 2 — Sustained winds of 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h)
Category 3 — Sustained winds of 111-129 mph (178 — 208 km/h)
Category 4 — Sustained winds of 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h)
Category 5 — Sustained winds of 157 mph or higher (252 km/h — no limit)
The National Hurricane Center considers a storm of Category 3 or higher to be “major,” but storms have the propensity to change categories within a few hours. When it comes to Orlando hurricane car care, you should consider all named storms to be major.
Car Body Damage Repairs After an Orlando Hurricane
If your car sustained body damage due to falling or flying debris during a hurricane or tropical storm, don’t wait too long to file your claim. Car insurance companies get inundated with claims in the aftermath of a hurricane. If you are a resident in Orlando, Kissimmee, Sanford, Ocoee or other areas in and around Orange County and your car has hurricane-related dents, contact the body repair professionals at the Orange County Paintless Dent Company. You can send photos of your car damage to get a fast estimate without having to leave your home.