It is severe weather season/ tornado season in Minnesota and much of North America.
A few weeks ago, emergency sirens sounded for tornado drills and emergency rehearsals everywhere. Businesses and Schools participated in collective emergency procedures for severe weather awareness week. Tornado drills need detailed plans and practiced evacuations to help keep staff and children calm and focused in the event of a true emergency.
For those of us who prepare at home, it is common knowledge that when a tornado warning is issued, certain precautions are necessary for our family’s safety. For example, moving away from windows and glass doorways, moving to the innermost part of the house on the lowest possible floor or basement.
“What if I’m driving near a touchdown tornado?”
What if you are not at home or in a building, rather, in your car instead? What then? The curious question for many of us who need to feel ready is “What if I’m driving near a touchdown tornado?” This situation is not easily rehearsed, so, there is no single right answer… no guaranteed way to save your life when you are out in the unprotected elements. When faced with this kind of danger, like a hurling weather beast, the right thing to do is contingent on your surroundings. However, there is plenty advise out there to take into consideration for the “What ifs,” that may save you.
- The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour, stretch more than two miles across, and stay on the ground for several miles
- (The most extreme tornado recorded was the “Tri-State Tornado,” which had barrelled through 3 states in 1925, holding the record for longest path length of 219 miles)
- A majority of tornadoes in the world occur in the United States region nicknamed “Tornado Alley,” although they can occur anywhere in North America.
- The weakest category tornado can damage trees while the strongest category tornadoes have been known to cause hundreds of deaths.
- F2s and F3s can tear roofs apart and lift cars off the ground.
- An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, can rip buildings off their foundations.
- Tornadoes can throw debris at dangerous speeds of 100 mph or more.
- Debris from a tornado can be lofted into the parent storm and carried a very long distances.
The Professional Advice
Knowing the facts and professional’s advise ahead of time might help you make life saving decisions in what ever Tornado predicament you find yourself in. Some advise appears to be conflicting and criticized (such as this weather blog debate) while most advice seems quite common sense but very conditional to the environment and status of the tornado itself. Ultimately you will have to weigh your options in a split second, that is to say if you have more than one option.
- Unless the tornado is far away and highly visible, meteorologists advise that drivers park their vehicles far to the side of the road (so as not to block emergency traffic), and find a sturdy shelter.
- If no sturdy shelter is nearby, getting low in a ditch is the next best option.
- Highway overpasses are one of the worst places to take shelter during tornadoes, as the constricted space can be subject to increased wind speed and funneling of debris underneath the overpass.
- Fox nine weather says “If you’re on the road when a twister touches down, it’s best to pull over, get out and get as low as possible.” Read more from Fox 9
- Red Cross advises: “If you cannot get to shelter, a recent study* suggests doing the following: Get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt, and try to drive at right angles to the storm movement and out of the path.”
- Red Cross advises: “If strong winds and flying debris occur while you are driving, pull over and park, keeping seat belts on and the engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.” Read more from American Red Cross
- Then there is the best advise, that is to avoid driving into that situation at all by tuning in to your local weather stations
- Beware of Tornado watches, especially Tornado warnings in your area. Thanks to modern radar technology there’s a slim chance you’ll be driving into a tornado if you stay informed.