NORMAN — All Oklahomans know the importance of going to the storm shelter when the tornado sirens sound. But what should someone do when caught while out on the road?
Vehicles are not safe to be in with a tornado approaching. People have been hurt and even killed when big trees have fallen on vehicles.
If you are faced with a tornado while on the road, what you need to do will depend on your location, the tornado’s location, road options, nearby structures, traffic and weather conditions.
Find a radio station broadcasting weather information. Also know where you are. Radio announcers will use town and county names as they provide information regarding the tornado’s location. Keep a map handy so you can pinpoint locations.
Smartphones can come in handy. However, if you are driving alone, pull over so you can safely check the weather. Some smartphone apps use the GPS chip in the phone to pull up the latest radar images.
If the tornado is far enough away, and road options and traffic allow, you should try to find a building for shelter. Once there, follow basic tornado safety guidelines of get in, get down and cover up. Businesses located along the road can be shelter sources.
Never try to outrun a tornado. You may be able to avoid a serious situation by driving out if its path, or simply stopping and letting it pass. The worst-case scenario is to be caught in your vehicle with no escape. This situation is more likely to happen in metropolitan areas during rush hour or on limited-access roadways such as the interstate where it’s not possible to exit quickly.
Abandoning your vehicle to seek shelter in a ditch should be your last resort. You expose yourself to flying debris, flooding rains and hail, lightning and extreme wind.
However, if you have no other option but to leave your vehicle and seek shelter in a ditch, try to get as far away from the vehicle and other potential flying objects as possible.
Do not seek shelter under an overpass. As the winds from the tornado channel under the overpass, they speed up. You also are exposed to flying debris.
We are just starting to gear up for tornado season in Oklahoma and knowing what safety precautions to take while on the road is vital for your safety.