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HURRICANE FAQ

Hurricane Safety

Carolinians weather hurricane season by being prepared and helping their neighbors. It's essential to be ready to protect your family and homes beforehand and to safely begin rebuilding afterward. This page will be reguarly updated with resources to use before, during, and after the storm.

Take a few minutes to look through the articles about hurricane preparation to ensure you've done everything you can to keep you and your loved ones safe.

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AAA Insurance members can start the claim process online or by calling 800-228-9224.

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Carolinians weather hurricane season by being prepared and helping their neighbors. It's essential to be ready to protect your family and homes beforehand and to safely begin rebuilding afterward.

This page will be regularly updated with resources to use before, during, and after the storm.Take a few minutes to look through the FAQ below to ensure you've done everything you can to keep you and your loved ones safe.

How will my travel plans be affected by the hurricane?

Most major airlines allow changes to flights to and from affected areas in North and South Carolina.

Exception policies vary by airline so please contact your local AAA Travel Agent for details specific to your upcoming travel. You can see the latest updates on flights and cruises here or contact us at 800-463-8646 for more details.

What is the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within a specified area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area.

During a hurricane watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a hurricane warning is issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected within a specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph), a hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the expected onset of tropical-storm-force winds to allow for preparation.

During a hurricane warning, complete storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area as soon as an evacuation is recommended.

During a hurricane warning, complete storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area as soon as an evacuation is recommended.

What should I have in a hurricane emergency supply kit?

An emergency supply kit should have everything you need in the event that you lose power for several days and cannot leave home.

Essential items:

  • 3 days worth of water -- one gallon per person, per day. Increase during hot months.
  • 3 days worth of non-perishable food and a manual can opener if needed.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Battery powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries.
  • Backup cell phone batteries and car chargers
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • A first-aid kit -- this can be premade/purchased or you can build your own.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting with duct tape to shelter-in-place.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and twist ties for personal sanitation.

Other items to include:

  • Prescription medications, glasses, and other must-have medical products.
  • Important documents, such as insurance policies, identifications, and bank records, in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Hygiene supplies such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products.
  • Infant formula, diapers, pet food and extra water.
  • Coins, cash, or traveler’s checks.
  • Local maps.
  • A sleeping bag or heavy blanket for each person.
  • Matches kept in a waterproof container.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Extra clothing and shoes.
  • Disposable utensils, plates, napkins.
  • A copy of your keys (house, car, etc.).

How can I protect my house from a hurricane?

Hurricanes bring winds and rains that can have catastrophic consequences, but planning in advance can help mitigate any damage.

  • Board windows – windows are one of the most vulnerable parts of your home. Protect them by boarding them with proper plywood to prevent breaking or install window shutters if there is time.
  • Board and blockade doors - you want to prevent your door from flying open. Board it up with plywood or block the handle to prevent strong winds from taking it down.
  • Purchase seals for watertight protection for doors and windows.
  • Check for loose siding on your home and secure it if neccesary.
  • Remove all "flyables" from outside patio furniture and outside décor can turn into dangerous projectiles with hurricane force winds. Bring all of that inside as well as bikes, children’s toys etc.
  • Moor your boat, trailer, gear and supplies.
  • Move items that absolutely cannot get wet to higher ground.
  • Turn off all utilities and disconnect any electrical items in the home if you need to evacuate. Water and electricity don’t mix – so anything left connected is a fire hazard.
  • Take a home inventory - your personal belongings are also at risk in a storm

How do I make a home inventory for a potential insurance claim?

Documenting your personal possessions is recommended. Having a home inventory makes filing a home insurance claim simpler and can expedite the claims process.

  • Use technology to make your home inventory easier. Take photos or videos. Create a private YouTube channel or photo library to save in the cloud so you won’t have to worry about storing the data you record.
  • Taking video gives you the advantage of being able to narrate anything notable about the item, saving you time from writing it down.
  • Start with your most recent purchases, or your largest ticket items, and work your way through the inventory from there.
  • Record serial numbers, makes, and models of your appliances and electronics. Take photos of your receipts if you have them, and note when and where you purchased them.
  • Include valuables like jewelry, family heirlooms (including appraisal) and inventory clothing by category (make notations for designer or more expensive pieces).
  • Take photos or videos of your artwork, along with receipts or appraisals.
  • Take photos or videos of all furniture, noting antiques or particularly valuable pieces.
  • If you have enough time, store warranty information, receipts, and appraisals in a fire proof box. Keep multiple copies in a few safe places, like a safety deposit box at your bank, filed at your away-from-home office, and an additional set with a trusted relative or friend.
  • Don't forget off-site items. Your belongings kept in a self-storage facility are covered by your Homeowners Insurance too. Make sure you include them in your inventory.
  • Use a printable checklist to help make sure you don’t leave anything out.

How can I get updates and stay connected during and after a hurricane?

Download emergency service apps.

Find alternative ways to receive emergency notifications.

  • Purchase an emergency weather radio with hand crank power.
  • Find a local station with weather alerts.

Keep your devices charged.

  • Ensure all devices are at 100% battery.
  • Locate or purchase car chargers.
  • Locate or purchase portable battery packs to recharge devices.

Back up your phone and computer.

  • Ensure contact list is backed up.
  • Save important documents to cloud, e.g. insurance policies, copies of photo identification, passports, and birth certificates.
  • Keep written copy of important phone numbers in the event you need to borrow a phone.

Create plan to communicate with family.

  • Establish a phone texting tree.
  • Use a family GPS app like Life360
  • Keep written copy of important phone numbers in the event you need to borrow a phone.

Is it safe to shelter in place during a hurricane?

Many residents in or near the path of a major storm will shelter in place. AAA advises that you always follow your local government’s evacuation orders. If you’re choosing to stay or remaining is your only option, here are a few tips to make sure you and your home are prepared.

Before the storm arrives:

  • Stock your home with an emergency supply kit including food, water, batteries, lights, medicine, and more.
  • Stay informed by monitoring the storm via TV, radio, and internet.
  • Secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors to limit potential projectiles.
  • Lock your doors and close your windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers.
  • Secure your home by boarding up doors and windows.
  • Ensure you or a family member know how to turn off the gas, electricity, and water so you can turn off utilities if instructed to do so by authorities.
  • Set refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings and only open when absolutely necessary.
  • Prepare your phone and other electronic devices for the storm, including charging, updating, and backing up. Have spare wall and car chargers on hand.
  • Have cash available. If power is lost, ATMs and credit card readers may not be working.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets by cleaning and filling the bathtub, washing machine, and other large containers with water.

When the storm intensifies:

  • Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors..
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors..
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm—winds will pick up again..
  • Do not venture outside for any reason.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.

After the storm passes:

  • Only use generators outside when you shelter in place. Keep them more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
  • Avoid driving or walking through floodwaters. Six inches of moving water can knock down a person and a foot of fast-moving water can destabilize a vehicle.
  • Be aware of hazards relative to power lines, polluted water, and the possibility of fires.
  • Watch for and avoid snakes that have been displaced by floodwaters.
  • If power is out, only open refrigerator or freezer if necessary and throw out food if the temperature has risen to 40 degrees or higher.

If your safety is at risk at any point:

  • Be prepared with a “go bag” for each family member should you need to be transported to a shelter.
  • Do not attempt to travel on your own.
  • Contact emergency responders immediately if your home becomes unsafe.

What should I do if I have to drive in wet or flooded conditions?

Heavy rain and flooded roads are very dangerous, and even the best drivers need to be prepared for severe weather. Avoid driving if possible, but that’s not always going to be an option.

Before the storm hits, be sure your vehicle is ready and you’re comfortable driving in the rain. Here are some tips to keep you safe.

Prepare your vehicle bad weather:

  • Check your tires (including your spare) to make sure they have plenty of tread and are properly inflated.
  • Fill up your gas tank and check all fluid levels.
  • Make sure the windshield wipers are in good shape. The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.
  • Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle, which includes a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; mobile phone and car charger; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

When driving on wet roads:

  • Avoid driving in storms or high winds.
  • Drive with your headlights on using low beams.
  • Avoid driving through standing water and flooded roads. Even shallow water can damage and/or disable your vehicle, and floodwaters can rise very quickly.
  • Maintain an extra-large amount of space around your vehicle, and increase your following distance. This will give you more time and room to respond to other drivers’ sudden maneuvers.
  • Reduce your speed to account for the reduced tire traction on wet roads.
  • Don’t use cruise control during bad weather.
  • If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and keep the steering wheel as straight as you can.

What to do if your vehicle stalls in a flooded area:

  • DO NOT remain in the car.
  • Abandon your vehicle as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Flood waters can rise quickly, sweeping away a vehicle and its occupants.

How to protect your car from flooding:

  • Locate higher ground near your home and park your car there.
  • Find a deck or garage that offers cover to protect your car from wind damage.
  • Avoid leaving your car under power lines or trees.
  • Make sure there are proper documentation and insurance papers stored in your car (preferably in a zip lock bag or waterproof location).
  • Use flood covers. There are many waterproof flood covers you can purchase from auto part stores that have shown good results in protecting cars from water damage.

What to do if you are advised to evacuate your area:

  • Map your family’s evacuation route and have an emergency plan in place.
  • Evacuate as soon as it is recommended. Use the evacuation plan you’ve already prepared, leave early and during daylight hours.
  • Have a communications plan. Decide how you will contact family during a storm. Have every family member program emergency contacts into their phones. Come up with a predetermined meeting place and designate an out-of-state contact who can relay messages to family members in case local phone lines are down or overloaded.
  • Check the NC DOT and SC DOT websites for updates or call to verify road conditions.
    • North Carolina: 511
    • South Carolina: 888-877-9151

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.

People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

How can I protect my car during a hurricane?

Approximately 57 percent of Carolinians have auto insurance policies that don’t cover flood damage. When a hurricane is approaching, it is a good idea to consider moving your vehicles to higher ground to avoid flood damage.

  • Locate higher ground near your home and park your car there.
  • Find a deck or garage that offers cover to protect your car from wind damage.
  • Avoid leaving your car under power lines or trees.
  • Make sure the proper documentation and insurance papers are stored in your car (preferably in a zip lock bag or waterproof location) and maintain copies elsewhere.
  • Use flood covers. There are many waterproof flood covers you can purchase from auto part stores that have shown good results in protecting cars from water damage.

How do I safely return home after the storm has passed? It’s important to be aware of the dangers in your area even after the storm has passed.

Don’t return to your local area until officials say it is safe to do so.

Keep in mind that flash flooding can occur and that roads and bridges may be damaged. To verify road conditions after a storm call:

  • North Carolina: 511
  • South Carolina: 888-877-9151

Avoid driving or walking through floodwaters.

Flood waters can be electrically charged from downed and underground power lines; contain debris like glass, dead animals or even poisonous snakes; or be contaminated with sewage and hazardous chemicals. Just six inches of moving water can knock down a person, and a foot of fast-moving water can destabilize a vehicle.

Turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.

Ask for professional help if need be. Do not touch electrical equipment. Use a flashlight, rather than anything flammable, in case of gas leaks.

Be aware of hazards.

These include power lines, polluted water, and the possibility of fire due to low water pressure as well ask risks of poisoning.

Document the damage as soon as possible.

Take a combination of still pictures and videos for insurance claims purposes. The more documentation you have, the easier it is once you’re ready to file your claim. Do only what’s necessary to prevent further damage after a storm, such as covering broken windows with plastic or roofs with tarps to keep rain out. Don’t make or commission permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster reviews the damage.

Be wary of unlicensed contractors.

While natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need, unfortunately the aftermath of a crisis can also bring out many types of scams and unlicensed contractors who take advantage of those who have been victimized. Before you hire check out the company/contractor at bbb.org. It’s fast, easy and free. Additionally, do not pay for work in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment up front.

How do I file an insurance claim after a hurricane?

There are a host of challenges when returning home after a hurricane, but it’s important to document the damage as soon as it’s safe to do so.

AAA Insurance members whose property has sustained damage can start the claims process online or by calling 800-228-9224.

AAA Tips on Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Claims:

  • Inspecting your home for damage and then notifying your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Prepare an inventory and take photographs of damaged property.
  • Store undamaged property in a protected place if possible.
  • Cover broken windows and other holes to prevent further damage.
  • If carpet is soaked, remove the carpet and the carpet pad. Keep a two-foot square piece for the claims adjuster.
  • Look for hazards such as broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, submerged furnaces or electrical appliances and damaged sewage systems. If found, contact a licensed professional as soon as possible.
  • Proceed with extreme caution as you inspect your basement. There may be hazards from electrical lines and heating units. If your basement has flooded, do not pump it out all at once. Remove about one-third of the water per day. The wet ground surrounding your basement may cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse.
  • Remove contaminated materials from the home.
  • Carpeting, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be disposed of or cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaner.
  • Test drywall for moisture softness. If soft, cut holes at base to help dry out.
  • If possible, run A/C, dehumidifier and fans constantly.
  • If power is out, disconnect all computers and appliances from electrical sources.
  • Open cabinet doors and elevate furniture allowing air to circulate.
  • Save wet books or photo albums by putting them on edge in a frost-free freezer.
  • Be present when the adjuster inspects your damage.

AAA Tips on Auto Insurance Claims:

  • Car owners should contact their insurance company to determine the extent of coverage before seeking repairs.
  • Take photographs of any visible damage.
  • Any vehicle sustaining flood damage should be fully inspected before being allowed back on the road. Mechanical components, computer systems, engine, transmission, axles, brake system and fuel system impacted by water contamination may render the vehicle unfit to drive. In many cases, vehicles sustaining significant water damage will be determined to be a total loss.

What hurricane damage is covered by homeowners insurance or flood insurance?

Some damage from hurricanes may be covered by your homeowners insurance policy while other damage might fall under your flood insurance plan. Here are a few tips on what is covered.

  • Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property is covered under standard homeowner’s insurance policies. Wind-driven rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening is also covered.
  • If your tree falls on your house, your insurance will cover removal of the tree and home repairs due to damage.
  • If your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s homeowner’s policy would provide insurance coverage. The same holds true if your neighbor’s tree falls on your home; you would file a claim with your own insurance company.
  • If a tree falls in your yard, but doesn’t hit anything, you would pay for its removal in most cases.
  • Additionally, if a tree on your property is weak, damaged, or decayed, but you do nothing about it, and it crashes down, you could be held liable for damages.
  • Water that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is available to both homeowners and renters. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Homeowners policies also include additional living expenses—in the event a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster, this would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.
  • Homeowners policies may include additional living expenses in the event a home is damaged by a covered peril. This would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.
  • Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding or fallen tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

How can I tell if a vehicle has flood damage?

Whether you’re inspecting your own car or in the market to buy one, it’s important to know how to spot potential flood damage.

  • Smell inside the vehicle to detect any damp or musty odors.
  • Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt or signs of water stains.
  • Inspect the dashboard underside for signs of mud and dirt.
  • Look under the vehicle for corrosion.
  • Open all doors, hood and trunk to inspect for corrosion, mud and dirt or discoloration on the door frames, hinges and under the weather stripping.
  • See if moisture is stuck in the lights (a visible water line may still show on the lens or reflector and moisture beads and fog can build up in light fixtures from flooding).
  • Check all warning lights, window motors and all electrical components to ensure they are working properly. While a non-working part alone does not mean the vehicle was flooded, it combined with other difficulties is a cause for concern.
  • Have a trusted mechanic examine your vehicle or bring it to any of AAA’s approved auto repair shops.

How do I avoid the risk of poisoning after a hurricane?

How to avoid food poisoning:

  • Keep food on hand that does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. A full freezer usually keeps food cold for about 48 hours. Refrigerators will keep food cold for about four hours.
  • Place a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to monitor temperatures. If the temperature is 40 degrees or higher, throw food out.
  • Boil water. If water service is hindered and you don’t have bottled water, boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that could be present, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Utilities will often issue boil water advisories before a storm makes landfall or when the water is possibly contaminated.
  • Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.

How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only using generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
  • Never using a gas stove, camp stove, or charcoal grill inside.
  • Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector, with battery backup, on every level of your home.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the “silent killer” because it has no color and no distinct odor. Symptoms of CO poisoning can feel like the flu. If you are having headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, or confusion, get to fresh air, and call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) or 9-1-1 right away.

How to avoid snake bite poisoning:

  • Recognize that snakes will be displaced by flooding.
  • Watch where you step when flooding has occurred, even in areas that are not under water.
  • Carry a flashlight at night and at dusk.
  • Don’t try to pick up or kill a snake. It may bite you in the process.
  • The Carolinas Poison Center is available by phone (1-800-222-1222) or chat (www.NCPoisonCenter.org) if you think a poisoning has occurred. Phone lines can sometimes be busy in a storm. If internet connection is available, chatting with poison control may be a more reliable form of communication.

HURRICANE ASSISTANCE

FEMA Hurricane Resources


American Red Cross Disaster Relief & Recovery



Road Conditions

For members using our routing tool on AAA.com to help navigate road closures, keep in mind that it is updated regularly but not always updated immediately. To avoid being routed to closed roads please check www.ncdot.gov and www.scdot.org websites for road conditions and closures first.

The DOT websites are the best source for up to the minute road closures or visit your local AAA office to get help with routing.

Don’t return to your local area until officials say it is safe to do so. Keep in mind that roads and bridges may be damaged. To verify road conditions call:

Let people know you’re safe.  Register with the American Red Cross Safe and Well system so family and friends can find you.

Shelters
If you're looking for rental housings or apartments because you can't return home after a disaster, check FEMA Interim Housing Resources.

In North Carolina, call 211, visit the NC Department of Public Safety website for a list of shelters or download the ReadyNC mobile app.

In South Carolina, visit the SC Emergency Management Division website for a list of shelters or download the SC Emergency Manager app to find your zone based on GPS or by entering a physical address. 

Get the free app in the Apple Store or on Google Play.

Filing Claims
If upon returning home you notice that your property has been damaged and you're insured with AAA, you can find claims filing information here.