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Tornado safety while driving

It’s a scary scenario. You’re driving down the road and suddenly you spot a tornado. When seconds count would you know how to handle the situation?

Here’s how to stay safe when driving during a tornado watch or warning:

Tornado is Far away

If you can see the tornado in the distance the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends driving out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. You should also seek shelter immediately. The following sturdy shelters are suggested:

  • Truck stops
  • Convenience stores
  • Restaurants
  • Basements
  • Walk-in coolers

Tornado is Close

If the tornado threat is immediate or you are caught in extreme winds and flying debris park your car as quickly as possible. From here NOAA advises you to do one of the following:

  1. Stay in your car with your seatbelt buckled. Cover your head and face from glass with a jacket, blanket, cushion or by ducking.
  2. Get lower than the roadway and duck and cover.

What you never should do

There are two things you should never do during a tornado.

  1. Don’t seek shelter under an underpass. Winds are actually higher in these openings.

“Seeking shelter under a highway overpass is to become a stationary target for flying debris, with a substantial risk of being blown out and carried by the tornado winds. Safety in such a location is merely an illusion.” -NOAA 1999 National Weather Association Annual Meeting

  1. Don’t seek shelter under a car as debris could fall on top of it.

Stay Informed

When severe weather strikes it is important to stay up to date on the latest information.

  • Turn on the radio. Locate your local weather emergency channel for updates on the storm.
  • Sign-up for weather alerts on your smartphone. Download a weather app that you trust and accept the alerts.
  • Tornado by the American Red Cross (Free)- sounds an alarm when a tornado warning has been issued.
  • The Weather Channel (Free)- provides real time weather alerts and has an interactive radar feature.
  • Radar Scope ($10)- used by meteorologists and gives real time information about the distance of the storm or tornado relative to the user.
  • Storm Eye (Free)- offers local storm details including hails size, storm path, location and intensity.

After the tornado passes

After a tornado dies out watch for dangerous debris that may have fallen during the storm. Be on the look out for:

  • Fallen power lines
  • Broken gas lines
  • Sharp debris

NOAA reminds you that safety is not guaranteed inside a tornado, and to know the signs of a tornado.