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3/3/2023 (Permalink)

How to handle severe weather situations on the road is detailed below.

Being In a Vehicle

Vehicles - cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, RVs, 18-wheelers, boats, trains, planes, etc. - are terrible places to be when a severe thunderstorm threatens.  Fortunately, these situations can be avoided most of the time by being ALERT to the possibility of severe storms and tornadoes.

All types of vehicles can be blown over, rolled, crushed, lifted or otherwise destroyed by even a weak tornado.  People have been hurt or killed when large trees crushed their cars. Below are some safety tips.

  • Consider delaying your trip if severe thunderstorms are in the area or along your path of travel.
  • Monitor television, radio, NOAA weather radio, and the internet for storm location information.
  • Be familiar with the area where you're traveling.  
  • If you're in your car, find a station broadcasting weather information.  Some radio stations will interrupt programming to broadcast warnings and other information.  Search for a station with local weather information and listen for details.  A battery-operated weather radio is essential for travelers.
  • Wind
    Severe thunderstorms can produce devastating straight-line winds, as strong, or even stronger than most tornadoes.  Any vehicle may be overturned by severe thunderstorm winds.  Get off the road, if possible, and find a sturdy building to take shelter in.Severe thunderstorms contain deadly and destructive elements that can threaten your life in your car.
  • Hail
    Severe thunderstorms can produce hail as big as baseballs or softballs.  These chunks of ice, falling at over 100 mph from a severe thunderstorm, will break car windshields and dent vehicles bodies.  Get off the roadway, if possible, and find shelter underneath an awning, a carwash or other structure.  Abandon your vehicle, if possible, and get into a sturdy structure.  Do not park underneath highway overpasses or bridges.  You could cause a deadly traffic jam, preventing others from reaching safe shelter and blocking emergency vehicles.
  • Heavy Rain & Flooding
    Even non-severe thunderstorms can produce excessive rainfall in a very short period of time that can flood roadways and low water crossings.  Avoid areas where water is covering the roads - even familiar ones.

Every situation is different

The worst-case scenario for motorists would be to be trapped in your vehicle on the road with no escape possible.  This scenario could occur in more densely populated areas, in metropolitan areas at rush-hour or in high traffic situations, or on limited access roadways, such as interstates or turnpikes, where it might not be possible to quickly exit and find safe shelter.  It is in these situations when it may become necessary to leave your vehicle and seek shelter in a ditch, culvert or low spot.

Highway overpasses are NOT tornado shelters, and these should be avoided.

Taking Shelter Outdoors

Ditches, culverts, and ravines should be used only as an absolute last resort.  You will be exposed to flying debris, rain and hail, lightning and extreme wind.  People have survived by seeking shelter in ditches.  If you must leave your vehicle to seek shelter in a ditch, you should try to get as far away from the vehicle, as possible.

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