Hurricane Michael: What to do if your car is caught in a flood

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Previously a tropical storm, Michael has been upgraded to a category 1 hurricane with even greater intensification expected to follow.

Once a tropical storm, Michael will officially become a Category 1 hurricane and is on track to hit the Gulf Coast and make its way into Georgia later this week.

» RELATED: Michael becomes a hurricane; parts of metro Atlanta could be impacted

According to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds have already increased to nearly 75 mph and are forecast to strengthen during the next day or so.

As storm surge and flooding worsens, drivers will face especially challenging circumstances − both during and after the storm.

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“Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night,” the Hurricane Center said in the Monday morning advisory.

Michael follows the recent Category 1 Hurricane Florence that ravaged the Carolinas in September, dropping nearly 36 inches of floodwater. At least 49 deaths were reported as a result of the cyclone, according to NBC News.

» RELATED:  Why is floodwater so dangerous?

According to the Federal Highway Administration, wet pavement is a factor in approximately 75 percent of weather-related crashes. And rain accounts for about half of deaths and injuries.

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“Floodwater is dangerous when you're driving because there's no way to judge how deep or rapid the water is until it's too late and you've put yourself and any passengers in danger,” the AJC previously reported. “This is even more true when you're driving in heavy rain or at night when your vision is limited.”

While hydroplaning isn’t unique to floods, it can also be quite dangerous. Anyone caught in a hydroplaning incident should ease off the gas and steer the wheel in the direction they want to vehicle to go. Try to resist the urge to slam on the brakes or oversteer.

» RELATED: Metro Atlanta should see less than 1 inch of rain from Hurricane Florence

If flooding is in your forecast, the number one tip is to avoid wading or driving through the floodwaters. In fact, more than half of all flood-related drownings happen when people drive vehicles into floodwater.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it only takes about six inches of water to reach the bottom of most cars, and that can easily cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

“A foot of water will float many vehicles,” the agency warns, and “two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.”

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Caught in a flood? Call your insurance company. Better yet, call before you’re in a dire situation to ensure you’re covered by comprehensive insurance.

If you’re inside the vehicle, don’t try to turn your car on until it’s been through a thorough vehicle inspection as there may be water in the engine. Starting the car could further damage it.

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Your insurance company will help determine the best next steps and will typically begin with an inspection from a qualified technician.

A technician should inspect contamination inside the car and aim to drain floodwater from any contaminated components before cleaning and drying electrical system components and connections.

Unfortunately, “depending on the vehicle year, make and model, the cost of repairing flood damage can easily exceed a car’s value,” the AAA notes.

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And repairs depend on a variety of factors, such as how deeply the vehicle was submerged in water and how contaminated the engine, transmission, drivetrain fuel, brakes and steering systems are.

“Unless every part is thoroughly cleaned and dried, inside and out, problems caused by corrosion can crop up weeks or even months after the flooding,” experts warn.

Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm around 7 a.m. Friday near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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“On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move further inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina today and Saturday,” the Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. “Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.”

“We are not expecting any major impacts,” Channel 2 meteorologist Katie Walls said. “As a matter of fact, as we continue to get in new data, it really looks like the bulk of the wind, the bulk of the rainfall will be staying well to our north and east.”

More flood damage tips for car owners at