The following came to me in email. I have not heard of anything similar to this, and I haven’t had a chance to do any news searching to see if there are other reports. I’m printing this to see if anyone reading this has any information.
Someone who came into my office said he missed his friday visit because he had to pick up his stranded brother who ran out of gas south of Dallas. Well now, his brother’s car was towed, and he can’t afford to get it. $550. How many others who were forced out and had to leave vehicles are going to be screwed by this? Is this gouging or at least taking advantage of people. State approved?
As I say, this is the first I’ve heard of anything like this. Certainly, under normal circunstances, cars which are abandoned on interstate highways will eventually be towed, and the cost to get them back will be several hundred dollars. I’m sure there were and still are quite a few cars along I-10 and I-45 which were left behind after running out of gas during the evacuation. How should they be treated? What would be a reasonable fee for the agencies that did the towing? Those cars do represent a highway hazard, after all. What do you think?
UPDATE: As noted in the comments, this Chron story has an answer:
Evacuees forced to leave cars along freeways because they broke down or ran out of gas may face another nightmare — paying expensive tow and storage fees to get them back.
It all depends on location. If the car was left on a highway within Houston, the city will pay the bill.
Anywhere else, you’re on your own.
Frank Michel, the city’s communication director, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city $124 for each car towed under its Safe Clear mandatory tow program.
“The tow operators have agreed to do away with the rest of the fees,” Michel said.
More than 600 vehicles were towed from freeways. Most were taken to private storage lots. Those towed since Saturday morning were taken to Metro’s Park & Ride, 7821 N. Shepherd, where no fee will be assessed.
More than 150 vehicles were at the Park & Ride on Sunday afternoon. To find out where your car is, call 713-884-3131.
“If jurisdictions are allowing us to bring vehicles back, we are,” Houston police Capt. Lori Bender said, adding that the city has retrieved residents’ cars from Montgomery County and Jersey City.
If people have paid to get their car out of storage, they can ask for a refund, Bender said. The city will then reimburse the storage lots with FEMA money.
The city has not gotten complaints about price gouging, Bender said.
“We aren’t aware of any,” she said. “It’s too soon to know. A lot of people haven’t picked up their cars yet — they are still worried about getting their lights back on.”
So there you go. Check Melissa’s comment below for some suggestions if your experience differs from this.