Prepare for storms before they hit

As the tropical storm — perhaps hurricane by this time, though it was weakening Friday — Karen churns toward the Gulf Coast, it’s a good time to remember that when hurricanes and storms hit the Southeast mainland, the danger doesn’t stop at the coastline.

Being prepared is key.

Not everyone takes a proactive approach. AAA Auto Club Group, for instance, says that its call volume doubles just before a hurricane or tropical storm hits an area. The most common call? AAA officials say, it’s to unlock a car door. Before the arrival of Tropical Storm Andrea, AAA responded to 8,000 calls about keys locked in cars and dead batteries.

“Without fail, we see very stressed out motorists just before a major storm at grocery stores and home improvement centers running last-minute errands to prepare for the storm,” said Gerry Gutowski Sr. vice president for automotive services for the Auto Club Group. “As a result of the rushing around just hours before the storm arrives, it’s easy to make simple mistakes like locking your keys in the trunk of your car.”

While there are emergencies that occur with autos, the top five preventable reasons that motorists call — according to AAA — are locked-in keys, lights left on, running over debris in the roadway, draining car batteries from charging cell phones and driving through rising water.

That last one is particularly dangerous. When water rises over a roadway, there’s no way to be certain how deep it is or even if the roadway beneath the water is structurally sound. Driving through water covering a road can be a deadly decision.

Predictions Friday were that wet weather could hit our area as early as tonight, while Sunday and Monday were likely to be days of heavy rain. And when you have a weather system like this coming through, there’s always a chance of tornadoes developing and power outages.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you have the basics covered, such as several days’ worth of food and water on hand, a well-stocked first-aid kit, fresh batteries in flashlights, a weather radio with fresh batteries, a fully charged cell phone, a good battery in your car.

We live quite a distance from the coast, but as we learned in 1994 and 1998, that doesn’t protect us from nature’s fury. It’s best to prepare for the worst … then hope it never comes.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board