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HINDSIGHT 20/20

Where to park your car in a hurricane

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
If only.
By Kristin Oakley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

As Hurricane Harvey approached my hometown of Houston at the end of August 2017, I thought I did everything I could to prepare. I tracked the storm as closely as I could through news updates and alerts. My boyfriend and I bought water and groceries. We got the camping stove out of storage and went to three stores to find propane for it. We bought bags of mulch (all the stores were out of sand) and a tarp and built up a barrier against the door of our ground floor apartment. We did all of this even though we don’t live in a recognized flood zone, thanks to the predicted severity of the storm.

But we never thought about a really crucial step that would have saved us thousands of dollars: we didn’t park our car on higher ground. Clearly, this is an obvious thing to do, but it simply never occurred to us to do it. And lest you think we were the only ones, here is a photo of our parking lot during Harvey.

Welp.

Experts estimate that 500,000 to 1 million cars were damaged by water from Harvey, most of which will be total losses. The same could happen in Florida when Dorian lands. Most people do have car insurance that covers flooding (it’s covered by the comprehensive coverage add-on), but it’s a hassle either way. The car we lost was paid off five months ago, and the check we got from the insurer (while quick and appreciated) doesn’t quite solve the problem.

So if you’re in the path of a hurricane, or at risk for flooding, find a parking garage, or a hill, or a curb. And obviously, park legally, so that emergency vehicles and others can get past your car as needed. It’s not a perfect solution, and it could make a last-minute evacuation more difficult if your car is farther away, or prove fruitless if the flood waters get higher than the place you choose to park. But, at least in our case, it’s worth a shot.

Oh, and here’s another tip that could save you thousands more dollars down the line: If you’re in the market for a new ride, watch out for hurricane-salvaged, flood-damaged cars with murky title paperwork that are now flooding the used-car market in some states.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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