Tornado – Car Safety, Common Sense can Kill

Tornado season is here and 9% of deaths occur in cars so FEMA and the NWS published timely tips on car/storm safety. Stay out of underpasses is the number one rule.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has just sent out bulletins to local agencies and community leaders noting some important warnings for those caught in a car or truck during a tornado.

The National Weather Service reports that nearly nine percent of the people killed by tornadoes in the period between 1985 and 2008 were in cars or small trucks.

A car is actually a fairly safe place to be in a violent storm, protected from lightning and a lot of flying debris, but a few dumb mistakes can render you vulnerable even in a steel cage.


Hennepin and Ramsey counties in Minnesota have recognized the dangers by installing digital billboards last week to warn travelers of the danger. Billboard owners have agreed to suspend regular advertising for 15 minute increments to display tornado warnings.

Overpass Dangers – Common Sense Can Kill

In the 200 year old battle between common sense and science, science always wins in the end. One great example is the common sense idea that getting under a bridge if a tornado is coming is a good idea.

Science says that the venturi effect tells us constricting a high wind in a confined space such as an underpass (or between the wings of a biplane) actually increases the wind velocity – great for flying a 747, but really bad news if you are hiding from a tornado.

Driving off the highway into a ditch – such as that found between lanes on divided highways, is actually a much better idea.

The following are “official” recommendations on avoiding danger if you are in a vehicle during a tornado event:

Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion, if possible.

If you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

Never try to outrun a tornado in a car or truck.

For more tips on what to do when a tornado strikes, visit