What to do when you're on the road

Published: March 27, 2011
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Safety on the road

The three groups of people most at risk during a tornado are those who are outdoors, those in mobile/manufactured homes and those on the road in vehicles.

The first two locations are detailed in other sections of this safety guide. How to handle severe weather situations on the road is detailed below.

Being in a vehicle

Inside vehicles — cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, recreational vehicles, tractor-trailer rigs, 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.

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 Web for storm location information.

Be familiar with the area where you're traveling. Keep a highway map handy that includes the county names and boundaries. National Weather Service severe weather warnings are issued based on counties. If you do not know what county you're in you could miss lifesaving information

If you're in your car, find a station broadcasting weather information. Some stations will interrupt programming to broadcast warnings and other information.

Dangers

The chances of being hit directly by a tornado in your car are very small. However, severe thunderstorms contain other elements that can threaten your life.

Hail: Severe thunderstorms can produce hail as big as baseballs or softballs. These chunks of ice, falling at over 100 mph, will break car windshields and dent vehicles. 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.