Car Safety – Natural Disasters and Driving


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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around auto insurance guides...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing...

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Reviewed byLaura Walker
Formerly Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jun 30, 2020

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Aside from often being your number one mode of transportation during times of disaster, your car may also be one of the most expensive items you own. Replacing it would be costly and challenging to do during a crisis.

To help keep you, your family, and your car safe in the face of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods, here is a guide that details useful tips you should keep in mind.

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Being Prepared Before a Natural Disaster

Prevention is your first line of defense. Being prepared for any type of situation can mean either the loss of your vehicle in a disaster or its availability when you need it most.

While you cannot always anticipate which natural disasters may hit you and at which time they will come, you should always keep an eye on your county, city, or region’s weather forecasts. Be sure to watch out for thunderstorm, tornado, flood, or hurricane warnings to prepare accordingly.

Most of the guidelines we come across agree that keeping your car in a safe place at all times is a great way to prevent damage during natural disasters. If you are leaving your vehicle in a parking space outside, make sure to roll up all the windows and keep your sunroof and doors locked. Covering your vehicle with a sturdy car cover is also a good alternative if you do not have a garage.

Regular maintenance is also essential to keep your car in excellent condition and prepared for driving in bad weather.

Lastly, look into how much your current car insurance covers when it comes to loss or damage from natural disasters. Getting comprehensive car insurance will protect you from damages caused to your vehicle during times of disaster.


During a Natural Disaster

Here are some ways how to keep you and your vehicle safe during specific natural disasters.

Severe Thunderstorms

If you are caught outside during a severe thunderstorm, you can stay in your vehicle as shelter. Refrain from using your car. If possible, drive to a nearby place with an enclosure or shelter from falling trees or debris.

If you are stuck on the road, keep your emergency lights flashing.


Unless it is an emergency, never drive your car through floods. The damage water can cause your vehicle might be irreparable. Your vehicle may also cease to function once the water reaches a certain level, leaving you stranded in a potentially dangerous situation.


As much as possible, you should avoid driving during a hurricane. Even just two feet of water is enough to float your car which can lead to plenty of dangerous scenarios. Fallen trees, power lines, and debris can also make driving hazardous.

If you happen to be driving at the onset of a hurricane, avoid underpasses, dips, canyons, and washes as these places can easily become filled with water.


If you happen to be outside, immediately get into your vehicle and drive it the nearest possible covered shelter if you still have time. You can also stay inside your car while you wait for the tornado to pass by. Be sure to roll up your windows and close every opening in your car.


During or after an intense earthquake, avoid parking your vehicle near bridges, underpasses, and electric lines. If the earthquake was particularly intense, it would be wise to also avoid tall structures that could collapse onto your vehicle.

Winter Storms          

If you desperately need to drive somewhere during a winter storm, make sure that you have snow tires or chains, depending on the condition of the roads. Wait or the roads to be cleared if you can. Drive slowly and be aware of the hazard of unseen ice. If possible, only drive during daylight.


Once a wildfire starts, immediately evacuate the place in your car. If you have to drive through smoke, be sure to close every window and vent to your vehicle.

Heat Waves   

Keep extra water and a charged mobile device in your vehicle. Emergency ice packs may be helpful in some situations.


After a Natural Disaster

One of the most common damages caused by natural disasters is a damaged engine due to contact with water when driving through floods.

After floods have settled and your car engine dries off, the first thing you need to do is dry out your entire car. Refrain from starting the vehicle as it can cause more damage to the engine.

Check if there are noticeable water droplets on your oil dipstick. If there are, the chances are high that your engine is damaged. Next, assess the condition of your engine cylinders. They need to be replaced immediately when damaged by water. Then, check out what color your transmission fluids are. If they have turned a murky brown color, it’s time to replace them.

If you are not mechanically inclined but believe there may be damage, it is safer to have your vehicle towed to the repair shop for inspection rather than driving it there.

For more information on vehicle damage assessment, visit the resources below. You will also find information on how to report damages to your insurance.


Additional Resources

Are you still looking for more information? You can find additional tips and guides in the links below.

The Red Cross is always a great resource. Check out their page on Types of disasters. discusses how to prepare in advance: Plan ahead for disasters.

The American Public Health Association discusses what to do on the road: Safe travels: Disaster preparedness on the road.

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