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Driving During a Tornado: How to Stay Safe

storm chaser tornado

If you are living in the United States, say anywhere from the Rockies to the east coast, you could experience a tornado. In fact, tornadoes can actually happen anywhere, with a surprise touchdown causing major devastation. Despite most cars weighing in at nearly two tons, it offers you no protection from high winds. Here’s six things you need to do if you find yourself driving during a tornado:

1. Be on the AlertYou must drive with the utmost care if a tornado is anywhere near you.

Whenever weather conditions turn nasty, you must instantly be aware of your surroundings. Tune in to a local AM radio station and check for any severe weather updates. If your car has a GPS system, it may provide an audible warning that a tornado is in your area and instruct you to take cover. Heed those warnings immediately and seek the nearest possible shelter.

2. Keep an Eye on the Sky

Warning signs of an impending tornado include a dark sky, especially one tinted in green, a huge, dark cloud lying near the horizon or large hail unexpectedly falling. Tornadoes are also typically accompanied by a loud roar that some describe as sounding similar to an approaching train.

3. Do Not Attempt to Outrun a Tornado

If you are driving during a tornado and think you might be able to outrun the approaching storm, think again. Tornadoes can travel as fast as 60 mph. If possible, move away from the tornado, traveling at a 90-degree angle from the approaching storm, recommends Accuweather. Then, seek shelter as quickly as you can find it.

4. Find a Sturdy Building

The best option for safety when driving in a tornado is to find a building. A school, library, fire station, house or any other sturdy structure is ideal. If there is no basement available, then stay on the first floor and move away from the windows. An inner room without windows is best. Lay down in a bathtub and if possible pull a mattress over yourself and stay put until the storm passes, advises the National Weather Service. A closet, hallway or protected space under a stairwell are other places you can choose to wait out a tornado.

5. Avoid Highway Underpasses

If you find yourself on a highway and a tornado is approaching, you might think that an underpass will protect you; however, that is a mistake. High winds passing above and around the underpass can suck you up from your hiding place. Even if you manage to stay in place, flying debris can still be a threat and even kill you.

6. Leave Your Car

If there is no shelter nearby, then immediately pull off the road, exit the car and move as far away from it as possible. Find a low lying area such as a ditch, lay face down in it and cover your head with your hands. Avoid any space near trees as they could fall on top of you.

Leave Nothing to Chance

Even if the storm is miles away and you find yourself driving during a tornado, downed power lines, debris and flood waters are other hazards that may be present in the aftermath of the storm. So before storm season arrives, make sure your car is in top condition, with the motor oil changed, filters replaced and the tires rotated, so you will be ready. You can never be too prepared for a tornado.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on nasty weather and your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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