Hurricane Isaac recently hit the Gulf Coast, killing nine in the United States, destroying houses, and generally causing the kind of chaos we’ve sadly come to expect from hurricanes. Thankfully, Isaac was weaker than the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, the events of which are still lingering in the American consciousness. It could have been worse, but no hurricane is really a good thing.
There are many ways to look at the aftermath of a natural disaster. But one behind-the-scenes item of hurricanes that’s always fascinated us, for obvious reasons, is the cars.
Cars, obviously, suffer a lot of damage in hurricanes. They get flooded, tree limbs crush them, winds blow them over … and we’re not even getting into the accidents and abuse they get at the hands of fleeing citizens who obviously just want to get out of the way. Just ask the car insurance companies. So, here’s a brief tour of the cars of Hurricane Isaac.
When a hurricane is threatening, the car dealers of the New Orleans area have a problem: They’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars of valuable stock on their lots that might be facing getting wrecked. How do they keep that from happening? Huge, coordinated moves to a deliberately-selected area of higher ground to keep the cars safe from flooding. These moves can be something to see, with hundreds of cars being pulled out of a lot at once and being driven to higher ground.
Cars on the Road
But what about cars that have already been purchased? Well, more often than not, they get pressed into service as storm shelters. When water went over a levee near New Orleans, many on the road found themselves holed up inside their own vehicle, waiting for rescue, escape, or simply for the storm to pass.
And after the storm, then what? One of the biggest problems for cars when a hurricane blows through is flooding. Flooded cars are essentially junk. Upholstery becomes a breeding ground for mold; the engine can begin rusting, causing fuel inefficiency or more damage throughout the car; water can get into the transmission fluid, essentially destroying it; the electronics will likely be shorted out and corroded.
So Who Pays for All This?
In short, the best case scenario is that you have insurance that will total your car and pay you out for the damage to get a new one. Needless to say, however, insurance companies are pretty picky about situations where they’re willing to do this. The good news is that “comprehensive” policies will generally cover this, but not all policies are created equal, and if you’ve got an older car, it literally might not be worth what you pay in insurance, as comprehensive policies add $100 to $200 a year to your bill.
Believe it or not, a major help in these situation is the Small Business Administration. In hurricane situations, such as post-Isaac, they allow homeowners and renters to borrow a certain amount, depending on their situation, to replace items such as cars with their disaster loans.
It’s easy to forget how important cars are to us, until we wind up not having one to use. That’s one of many lessons we can learn from Hurricane Isaac.