AAA: Tips for drivers, travelers
After last year’s pre-Halloween trick from Mother Nature (a rare October snow storm affecting most of the Northeast which followed a hurricane and earthquake in the Commonwealth), one would think our area would be due for a treat this year. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has another trick up her sleeve this year by the name of Hurricane Sandy.
Although it’s too early to know exactly which path Sandy will take, one thing is almost certain – Virginia is likely to begin feeling the effect of the storm as early as Sunday. The Commonwealth is anticipated to experience heavy rainfall, winds, coastal flooding and beach erosion, as well as possible widespread power outages.
“The first rule of thumb is if you don’t have to drive during the storm – don’t,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “If you must drive, take caution as conditions can become treacherous quickly. Nearly half of the people who die in flash floods are in automobiles because they vastly underestimate water’s power or depth, or don’t act quickly enough to escape.”
AAA TIPS FOR DRIVERS – HURRICANE SANDY
Before The Storm
· Gas up your car since power outages may leave service station without the ability to pump fuel out of the ground. (Note: AAA will not deliver emergency fuel to members if stations are without power.)
· Clear your windshield and windows on the inside and outside, and ensure that your window wipers are in good shape.
· Be sure tires are properly inflated.
· Check that all lights are working properly.
· Remove excess items from the car and trunk, and replace them with an emergency road service kit which includes: flashlight with extra batteries; reflective triangles; fire extinguisher; jumper cables; first aid kit; jack and spare tire; rain gear or extra clothing; and pocket knife.
During The Storm
· Heed the warnings of emergency officials and observe road closure signs – do not attempt to drive on closed roads or into evacuated areas.
· Turn on windshield wipers and head lights (not just daytime running lights) as soon as rain begins to fall. Virginia law dictates that headlights must be on when your wipers are on due to inclement weather.
· If windows begin to fog, turn on the car’s defroster. Air conditioning may be comfortable, but warmer temperatures clear windshields of steam more quickly.
· Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
· Slow down. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. Rain decreases visibility and increases braking distances.
· Increase following distances. Normal dry pavement following distance (2-3) seconds should be increased to 8 seconds or more when driving on slippery surfaces. While driving, train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you will be able to anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
· Driving in other vehicle’s tracks can improve traction and help you avoid hydroplaning.
· Drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles must remember they are not immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Four-wheel drive cars are just as likely to lose traction on wet roads as any other vehicle.
· Be wary of high wind conditions. Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.
· Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways. If in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.
· Do not attempt to cross any standing water on the road as just six inches can make you lose control of your car and two feet of water will carry away most cars.
· Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. Cross them only if there is little standing or streaming water.
· If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately.
After The Storm
· If your car has been damaged, take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.
· If power lines are on your vehicle, do not attempt to remove them nor touch the vehicle. Contact the local power company for assistance.
· If the vehicle has been flooded, contact a qualified automotive technician before attempting to start a flood-damaged car. Have the technician inspect all mechanical components including the engine, transmission, steering system, axles, and fuel system for water contamination. Also have the technician drain floodwater from contaminated systems and flush with clean water or a solvent, as appropriate. All contaminated fluids, such as oil, transmission fluid, and engine coolant should be drained and replaced.
“As Sandy crashes into our region, driving can very quickly become hazardous,” said Meade. “Heavy rain, high winds, and standing water on roads create some of the worst driving conditions, largely because unlike snow, drivers cannot see it as readily.”
AAA TIPS FOR TRAVELERS – HURRICANE SANDY
If you are planning to travel to, or through, an impacted region, be sure to check with your travel agent, airline or cruise provider. Your travel itinerary could have changed due to the storm. For example:
· American Airlines canceled its flights to Jamaica and Haiti through Thursday and will allow customers to change plans free of charge. Anyone traveling to Freeport, George Town, Marsh Harbour or Nassau, Bahamas, between Oct. 25 and 27 can also change their flights fee-free.
· US Airways has relaxed its change-fee policies for those traveling to Montego Bay, Jamaica, through Thursday and Freeport or Nassau, Bahamas, through Saturday.
· Some cruise lines have changed their itineraries, including Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.
· Traditional travel insurance policies are valuable for a variety of travel situations; however, they do not cover acts of God and are therefore no help for travelers facing storm related cancellations. Travel vendors will often offer impacted clients alternate destinations and/or the ability to rebook their travel at a later date.
Tips if you are scheduled to travel in the days to come
· Stay abreast of local forecasts both at your departure city and your destination.
· Check your airline flight status before leaving for the airport.
· Check with your hotel for local updates on the storm’s impact.
· Monitor weather conditions on a regular basis as things can change quickly.
· Travel with only a carry-on bag when flying to give you greater flexibility if your schedule changes and so that you will have your luggage with you if delayed.
· Pack “emergency” creature comforts with you like snacks, rain coats, and extra clothing, etc. A flashlight with extra batteries, radio and extra water are a good idea if going to a beach house.
· Heed all evacuation advisories and/or orders.
· Carry enough medication for two to three times the length of your trip – If flying, always keep medication in carry-on luggage.
· Arrange emergency back-up child and/or pet care as applicable – Carry all applicable contact information on your person and not in checked luggage.
· Leave a house key with a trusted friend or relative and carry their telephone number with you – This person can take care of any home care essentials, mail, and/or access information you may need.
· Have emergency funds available for hotel stays, food, and basic necessities – check all credit card available credit limits and expiration dates.
· Take care of critical items/bills which are due immediately upon your return BEFORE YOU GO – examples: mortgage payments, tuition bills, school registrations, college applications, legal documents, etc.
· Carry important numbers with you for any one you might need to contact to advise your delay – examples: Jury duty, court appearance, etc.