Movies like “Twister,” which feature storm chasers, can make it seem fun and adventurous to be on the road during a tornado. The reality, however, is that it is incredibly dangerous. Educate your drivers on the proper steps to take if a tornado appears while they are driving in order to help them avoid being injured or killed.

Tornado season typically starts in late winter in the south and moves north through summer. Last year ranked as the fourth deadliest tornado season ever recorded in the U.S. with a total of 1,709 tornadoes. This year is on pace to match that record, with the majority of tornadoes expected to develop in April and May, according to the National Weather Service.

Detecting a tornado

Tornadoes can develop very quickly so there is often little to no advance warning. Drivers can look for clues in the weather that conditions might be prime for a tornado. According to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the wind will die down and the air may become very still. The sky will darken and become a greenish color and there will be large, dark, low-lying clouds. It might also start hailing.

Drivers should have a portable, battery-operated weather radio. Drivers should also watch for weather reports from the National Weather Service and local news stations. A tornado watchmeans that tornadoes are possible and drivers should remain alert and watch for conditions to worsen, especially since they can travel through several counties in a short period of time. Drivers should always be familiar with their routes, the county they are currently in and the counties they are heading to so they can prepare in advance and take shelter before they are caught in a severe storm. Tornado warnings mean that a tornado has been sighted or reported and drivers should take shelter immediately.

During a tornado

If drivers have advance warning that a tornado might be approaching, they should drive to the nearest building to take shelter. If possible, they should go to a basement or lower level of the structure. If the building doesn’t have a basement, they should go to the center of an interior room on the main level and stand as far away from the windows and doors as possible.

If drivers aren’t near a shelter or the tornado appears before they have a chance to get inside a building, they should pull over immediately. They should never attempt to out-run a tornado. Tornadoes typically range from 0 to 70 mph, with some as high as 300 mph, and they don’t always travel in a straight path.  Regardless of how heavy a truck is, a tornado can easily pick it up and throw it around.

If they can find a ditch or other location that is lower than the level of the road, drivers should exit their truck and lay flat in that location. If there are no ditches, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA recommend they stay in their truck, buckle their seatbelt and lower their head below the windows. Wherever they seek shelter, they should cover their heads with a blanket, coat or cushion if possible. Pointing tractor/trailers in the direction of the wind, not perpendicular to it, can help prevent them from being overturned or pushed by high winds approaching from the side.

It’s a common myth that drivers should park under an overpass during a tornado. According to FEMA, drivers are safer in a low, flat location because some overpasses can buckle under the high-pressured winds of a strong tornado. The corner point where the hill of the overpass meets the bottom of the overpass is a dangerous place to be as well. Even if the overpass does not collapse, the force of the winds in this area is magnified several times and can pull drivers out of what they think is a safe place.

After a tornado

Once a tornado has passed, drivers should first check for any injuries they may have sustained. If they are injured but able to move, they should try to find a phone and call for help. If they are not able to move, they should call attention to themselves by making noise and wait for help to arrive. At night, they should carry a flashlight and use it to signal for help.

Drivers should be very careful leaving a building or their truck after a tornado has passed. There will likely be a great deal of debris and building structures may not be safe. They should check their truck for any fuel leaks or damage. Drivers should wait for emergency responders to clear the road as it may be unsafe to drive on or blocked by debris.

For additional tornado safety tips, visit www.ready.gov/tornadoes.  You can also access several training videos related to tornado safety in our Resource Library.

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