Car Safety in a Tornado

Experiencing a tornado like the one that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma is something we hope no one reading this post ever has to go through. Our hearts and thoughts go out to each and every one who lost loved ones, homes, pets or experienced loss of any kind as a result of the tornado on Monday. Although we wish we could be on the ground in Oklahoma personally helping in some way, we do send our prayers that the healing and rebuilding process is as smooth as possible.

As image after image of the damage of the tornado’s aftermath flashed across our screens, which included smashed cars which had been thrown or flipped, we thought it might be helpful to review safety precautions of what you do if you get stuck in your car in the path of an approaching tornado. 

Car Safety Tips in a Tornado

1.      Prevention: if you can avoid going on when a severe weather warning has been issued, please do.  Prevention is the best way to stay safe in a tornado. However, if you are unable to avoid being out in severe weather, stay advised of the latest weather conditions through phone apps or listening to local radio. If you see dangerous looking storm clouds, pull over and go to the nearest sturdy building until the danger is passed.

2.      Steer Clear: While it's not recommended that you try to outrun a tornado, if the tornado is still a ways off, you may be able to steer clear of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. In other words, face your body towards the tornado and then drive to the right. This is the best way to avoid the largest hail and blinding rain produced by super cell storms that often produce tornadoes. Of course, if you are near a sturdy structure, the safest course of action is to get out and take shelter rather than trying to get away from the storm.

3.      Stay Safe: According to new American Red Cross Tornado Safety Guidelines, if the tornado is upon you while you are outdoors or in your car and there’s no escaping, you have two options:

  • Hunker down in your car. In this case you should keep your seat belts on, crouch below window level and cover your head with a blanket, jacket, cushion, or anything that can protect you from flying debris   By staying in your car you are less exposed to flying debris and the airbags and the metal frame of your car may offer some protection from jolts should the strong winds blow you around. Risks of staying in your car is having debris impale your car or being picked up or rolled by the strong winds, especially if the tornado ranks high on the Fujita scale.
  • Get Low: If you can safely get into a ditch or an area which is noticeably below street level, get out and lie in the low spot. Being below ground in this way offers some protection from the being blown around by the high winds and from flying debris, however, you are more exposed to hail, lightening and high water if it’s raining.

The bottom line is that while there is no completely safe option when you are in a vehicle or in the open during a tornado, use  common sense, assess your options and choose the best course of action given circumstances.

One encouraging study done by researcher Tom Schmidlin, found that in tornadoes ranking as F1, F2 and F3 on the Fujita scale, a relatively small percentage of vehicles are overturned, tossed, and demolished. His studies show that riding out a tornado in a vehicle may actually be safer than being in a mobile home.

What You can Do to Help Tornado Victims:

Search and Rescue: If you are in the immediate area, you may be able to offer immediate help in the way of search and rescue or assisting those who have been injured or affected by the tornado.  

Sheltering Storm Victims: You may also be able to take families or storm victims into your home temporarily until further accommodations can be found.

Donating: Donate funds or materials to those affected by the disaster either through the Red Cross or other local assistance programs.

Donate RVs or other Vehicles. Car donations of Motorhomes and RVs in particular can be useful in these types of situations as they can offer temporary housing and shelter for families who have lost their homes. Some car charities have programs which allow you to donate a car, RV or motorhome to a needy family. Donate a Car 2 Charity’s “Cars 2 Care” program is one such program. To find out more about this program and to see if your motorhome can benefit a needy family in a disaster area, give us a call at 877-505-5775.  

What to Do with Tornado Damaged Vehicles?

If your car got damaged as a result of a tornado or high winds, it’s important that you document the damage by taking good pictures and/or video. The next step is to contact your insurance agent. For your convenience, here is a list of the major insurance companies.  

We hope you never need these car safety tornado tips, however, if you do, we wish you the best and pray you stay safe!

Copyright: saddako / 123RF Stock Photo

Car Safety in a Tornado