What you should do when you're on the road and a tornado warning is issued

Posted at 1:05 PM, Feb 18, 2013
and last updated 2016-03-22 13:01:03-04

TULSA - You're driving in town, and you see a tornado in the distance. 

What do you do, and where would you go?

a) Safely park the car, and get inside a sturdy building? OR

b) Honk repeatedly to make sure everyone else sees the tornado? OR

c) Pull over into the right lane. Stop to get out your camera? OR

d) Drive to the nearest freeway overpass and take shelter underneath?

A car is one of the most dangerous places to be when a tornado approaches, so if there's any sturdy building near you, your odds of surviving the tornado are better inside the building. 

Before you get in the building, you have to figure out how to get out of your car without hampering anyone else's escape. Honking your horn could lead to more confusion and danger. It could increase the odds of a traffic accident - a double-whammy of bad fortune as a tornado approaches. 

If you intend to get out of your vehicle, either to seek indoor shelter or to watch from a safe distance, make sure you've pulled your vehicle off the road, preferably into off-street parking, so that other drivers can safely pass by.

Overpasses are a dangerous place to ride out a tornado. What seemed to be a clever trick for surviving a tornado after this famous 1991 video clip, proved deadly for people caught under overpasses in the May 3, 1999, Oklahoma tornado outbreak

If a tornado is bearing down and there's no safe shelter, get out of your car and move as far away from cars as you can (they may roll over you if you're too close).  Lie flat in a ditch, covering your head with your hands. 

Still, weather experts say staying in your car may be a better bet, when you have a few minutes' time, a safe distance, and you know where to drive to get away.

When road conditions and traffic permit you to move freely, you can almost always outrun a tornado in your car.  If you can see which way the tornado is moving, drive perpendicularly (at a right-angle) to the tornado's path. If you can't see the tornado moving, chances are it's moving right at you. 


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