Learn How to Survive a Tornado in a Car?

Learn How to Survive a Tornado in a Car?Did you get stuck in the car during the tornado? Well, you don’t! Pardon me for being so blunt, but what were you thinking! Going out in a car while there’s a storm brewing on the horizon!? It’s one of the most horrifying experiences one could have.

But sometimes, things don’t match up, and you have to face a tornado when you’re on the road.

Even if there is no possibility of tornadoes visiting your locality, you should know what to do when a tornado hits.

When you’re moving from one place to another, you never know when something happens. It’s better to be prepared than to panic in such moments.

Use these tips to prepare yourself. You’ll be glad that you didn’t end up like Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.

What to Do When Driving in a Tornado?

What to Do When Driving in a Tornado?

There could be many scenarios when you’re facing a tornado on the road. If you see a tornado while you’re driving, you should not panic, especially if your family is in the car.

If You See the Tornado Moving in Your Direction

If You See the Tornado Moving in Your Direction

Do not try to outrun it. Hundreds of people might be driving in that direction; it never ends well.

The first thing to do is to find a shelter. So, find a place where you can pull over and take cover. If there’s no time, drive off the road and pull over beside trees if you can. Then, duck down so that your head is below the windows. Fasten your seatbelt and cover your head with a cushion if you have one.

Alternatively, you can take a position in low-lying ditches beside the road. And take cover. Stay there until the storm passes.

But you should only consider leaving the vehicle only if you have a safe place to go. When you’re out in the open, you’re vulnerable to the high-speed wind. Even if it doesn’t take you away, the flying debris will injure you. This is what is suggested by NOAA and The Weather Channel.

If the Tornado Is Going away from You

If the Tornado Is Going away from You

It would be best if you tried to get as far away as you could. But beware of the flying debris that’s coming in your direction.

First, drive away from the funnel cloud, aka the vortex. Then, the intelligent thing would be to get out of the car and take cover under a structure.

Banks or food restaurants are optimum options since they have better structure and rooms that you can take shelter in. See if the buildings have basements; they are the best places to stay. And wait out the storm.

Find Official Tornado Shelters

Find Official Tornado Shelters

If you’ve reached a safe place for the moment, you should try to find out the nearest shelters. Try the popular humanitarian aid organizations such as Red Cross and your national resources. They should have already started their shelters and taken people in.

Visit Red Cross’s Shelter maps if you have internet coverage.

What to Avoid When Driving During a Tornado

What to Avoid When Driving During a Tornado
  • Do not stop under bridges or in tunnels. Intuition might suggest to you that it’s a good idea.
  • It’s a pretty common misconception, but it’s not your fault; it was previously thought by many aid organizations as well. But NOAA guidelines state that “Highway overpass is not a tornado shelter and these should be avoided at all costs,” and West Texas A&M University agrees.
  • Under severe weather, these may break down and become more dangerous. Even if it doesn’t break down, the wind speed is higher in such places, so the risk of getting hit by debris increases.
  • Do not drive for too long. If you do not find a place to take shelter, do not keep driving. Stop driving and stay low.
  • Do not take shelter in mobile homes. Your car is safer than those. That’s not me saying; it’s the Red Cross.

What to Do When the Tornado Passes?

The danger isn’t over yet. When a tornado passes from an area, you now have to take care of the injured family members. And there are always injured people. Tornado strikes leave behind wreckage that might have fallen upon people.

But first, make sure that the tornado has truly passed before you exit the shelter. There will be updates on your local weather radio, weather websites, and apps. Make an informed decision. Check all the broadcasts before taking a step.

What to Do If a Passenger Is Injured?

What to Do If a Passenger Is Injured?

If any of the passengers of your car gets severely injured, you should not move before the necessary help arrives. Dial 911 or your respective country’s emergency contact number and be patient with them because the line will be overcrowded with calls from thousands of people.

When you feel like you, and your passengers can move to your car, go to the car and drive to the nearest government shelter.

In case your car has become disabled, and you can’t fix it, wait for the authorities to arrive. Again, do not forget to call 911 when there’s an emergency.

Beware of Hazardous Wreckage Elements

When you’re finally ready to get out of the place of shelter, keep these in mind,

  • Keep an eye out at the wreckage. You never know when those things collapse.
  • Stay away from water since a power line could be cut down during the storm.
  • Watch out for snakes or other dangerous animals that might have found their way into the locality.
  • If it’s night, use battery-powered lights. Using candles or any fire should be your last resort.

Do NOT Forget Your First Aid Training

Do NOT Forget Your First Aid Training

Try to find a first aid medical kit. There should be one if you’re in an institution or a restaurant.

  • Use the bandages to stop bleedings if there are any. Apply pressure on puncture wounds.
  • If there’s a piece of debris or sharp object pierced into the body, do not take it out. But carefully clean the surrounding area and wrap the bandage.
  • Use alcohol or alcohol pads to keep the wound areas clean.
  • If there are any broken limbs, do what you were taught in school. Straighten it and use a straight stick or board to keep it in place.

Surviving without a Phone During a Tornado

Surviving without a Phone During a Tornado

If your cellphone or smartphone doesn’t work, you can use Skype, WhatsApp, or any other internet calling services to contact the emergency services. You can use any electronic device such as laptops or iPads to call them.

But if there’s no internet due to disturbance caused by the storm, you can’t do that either. In such cases, your only option is to find the nearest police or fire service station and walk or drive there.

Wait! There’s one thing you can do to avoid such situations. You should have access to the internet or cell services at the first stages of the storm. So, before taking shelter or after you reach a safe place, call your relatives or friends in other areas and let them know that you’re stuck in a tornado.

Letting them know about your situation will save you from a lot of trouble. If you’re unable to contact the emergency service, they’ll do that for you when they fail to reach you by phone.

When All Else Fails

If nothing works, do what you can to stay safe and alive until you see another person. In case the tornado has driven you to a remote place where you can’t see any other people, try and draw attention to yourself.

What If You Could Avoid These Situations?

Hear me out, what if there’s a way you could save yourself from facing a tornado? Prevent yourself from falling into unwanted situations by intelligent planning, especially if you plan to take your family with you. The situation is always worse when the family’s with you.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you drive off to avoid natural calamities.

WATCH THE NEWS and Don’t Go out

WATCH THE NEWS and Don’t Go out

People, this might seem too obvious, but we don’t really watch the important news. Whenever you’re planning for a long journey, checking the weather forecasts is vital. They are your friend, especially in the tornado season.

That’s March to June if you’re in the United States. In the EU region, that’s usually between June and August.

Unavoidable Journey

However, there might be exceptions where you can’t avoid a journey even with a tornado watch alert. In this case, you can pick a safe route. Select a few stoppages where you can wait out the storm. Make a list of the shelter locations so that you can quickly go there.

Utilize Weather Websites and Apps

Utilize Weather Websites and Apps

There are plenty of websites and apps available for free. They usually provide accurate weather reports and forecasts. Install widgets and apps on your laptops and smartphones. You’ll get weather warnings and news about shelter during emergencies. Take advantage of living in the 21st century.

Here’s a list of websites that provide correct weather forecasts and weather alerts.

Set Up Weather Alerts in Your Smartphone and Email

Set Up Weather Alerts in Your Smartphone and Email

This is a great way to get notified about tornados and all kinds of emergency weather news. There are plenty of apps available in Windows 10 and Goggle Playstore for that. For Apple users, I’ll suggest the Dark Sky app. Although it’s paid, it’s worth it.

Listen to the Local Radio Forecast

Listen to the Local Radio Forecast

The local radio constantly broadcasts news about the weather. And it’s a better medium of news in case of emergency. You can get updated news and alerts much faster than many websites or apps through the radio.

Usually, they are better equipped to handle adverse weather conditions. So, the habit of listening to local weather news can help you if you ever get trapped in a tornado crisis.

Familiarize with Weather Report Terms

It’s not going to be for everyone since most people are careless. But whoever is serious about planning should get familiar with terms used in weather reports.

If you hear or read,

  • Thunderstorm Watch, know that the weather conditions can develop into Thunderstorms.
  • Thunderstorm Warning, know that thunderstorms have developed and have been spotted.
  • Tornado Watch, know that there is a high chance of tornado development. It’s time to tune in to local weather news.
  • Tornado Warning, know that a tornado has developed. It’s time to cancel all plans and get to a shelter until further news from the authority.

Next: Know the differences between tornado warning & watch.

Know the Signs of a Tornado

  • Huge hailstorms and heavy rain will be followed by calm weather, and wind speed will shift suddenly
  • The lower dark clouds will start going in circles
  • Smaller debris on the road or yard will move
  • Thunder sounds from the sky, but thunder sounds alone don’t mean it’s a tornado

If You Think the Tornado Is Over, Think Again

When we hear authorities asking us to stay in our homes without further declaration, some wish to ignore it and go out. But that’s a risky move because tornadoes can come to your location from any direction and move in any direction.

In the US, most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast or west to east, according to NOAA. There have been reports of tornadoes changing direction in their path. Some even backtracked. Yes, tornadoes can double back if outflow winds hit it near the ground.

Due to having many coastal regions in different directions, the US has many paths for a specific direction. This is what is stated by NOAA.

So, sit tight even after the tornado passes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a tornado send a car flying?

Yes, it can. While the weaker tornadoes can only turn over vehicles, you can expect stronger tornadoes to send your car flying. It sounds horrifying because it is.

Can a tornado dig up the ground?

It’s not a common phenomenon. But there have been reports about trenches created by tornadoes. It’s been more commonly observed that tornadoes strip asphalt from the roads.

How are tornadoes detected?

It’s been made easy and possible by Doppler radars to detect the winds of a tornado. But humans are still the most important part of a tornado detection system.

It’s the ordinary citizens like you and me who warn the authorities of developments. A network called SKYWARN is known to keep watch for tornadoes.

Can trees protect me from Tornados?

While it may seem so, trees do not provide much protection against tornadoes. On the contrary, limbs from trees can become harmful projectiles. However, a dense forest can make a difference, but that’s an unlikely place for people to take shelter.

How fast can a tornado move?

Some tornadoes do not even move during their lifetime, while some can reach a speed of 60 miles per hour. On average, they move 10-15 miles per hour.

Final Words

Now you know what you should do when you see a tornado while you’re on the highway.

There aren’t actually any safe options when you’re out on the road. There are only less-dangerous options. When you’re out of options, you have to make the best of the situation.

But as I always say, prevention is better than cure. So how to survive a tornado in a car? Well, you do it by making necessary plans and being aware of the weather.

Up Next: Storm chasing adventure tours guide.

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