5 On Your Side

Katrina-Damaged Cars Could Soon Be On Market

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina welcomed evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, but the storm may send the state something it doesn't want: flood-damaged cars.

You would think that cars that were under water after Hurricane Katrina would end up in a junk yard, but that's not the case.

On the outside, flooded cars could look just like cars that have not been under water. But, on the inside, flooded cars can be full of problems. And if you are not careful, you could end up driving one and not even know it.

About 500,000 cars flooded by hurricanes Katrina and Rita are now potentially toxic and mud-caked messes, and they may be coming to a dealership near you.

After Hurricane Floyd, as many as a 30,000 flooded vehicles were cleaned up and sold to unsuspecting buyers.

"I had no idea it was a flood car," said Lauralee George, who bought one of the cars. "When you turn on the heat now, chips of mud blow at you."

Dave Floor also bought one of the cars flooded during Floyd.

"I learned my lesson," Floor said.

A video showed Floor's car right after it flooded, and he had no idea it was ever under water until things on his vehicle stopped working.

"The switch for the heat and air, and the radio had a problem," he said.

And cars flooded by Katrina may hold an extra hazard.

"They're festering with

E. coli

, hepatitis, cholera," said Larry Gamache, who works for


, an online company that tracks the histories of flooded cars.

Gamache said he's already seeing with Katrina what Five On Your Side found with Floyd and flooded cars.

Five On Your Side tracked the travels of cars that were flooded during Floyd for two years. The cars were sold to unsuspecting buyers all over the country. That means cars flooded in Katrina and Rita could easily end up in North Carolina.

Scam artists can get away with it by moving the car titles through states that do not use a "flood" brand so they can get new, clear titles.

"They'll spray new car smell in it; they'll replace the leather," Gamache said. "They'll do things to make you think it's a cherry car when it's really a waterlogged wreck."


Monica Laliberte


David McCorkle

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