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Tornado Deaths Show Danger of Taking Shelter in Cars

May 14, 2008

SENECA, Mo. --- Over the weekend, more than a third of the 22 people killed by the tornado that swept across Oklahoma and Missouri died in cars, according to the Associated Press. That fact underscores what experts have long said: Vehicles are one of the most dangerous places to be during a twister.

Those killed in the tornado included three people who were rushing to reach a family member's house in their car; a woman whose car was blown off the road near Seneca, Mo.; and four family members who were traveling in a van on their way to a friend's wedding.

On Saturday night, May 10, a twister packed winds of 170 mph in Seneca.

"It's like taking a handful of Matchbox cars and rolling them across the kitchen floor," Sgt. Dan Bracker of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told AP. "This is devastating."

About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, according to the National Weather Service. This could prove to be the busiest tornado season on record in the U.S.

One mistake drivers sometimes make is to try to outrun a tornado.

"They can cover more ground than you can in your car, so unless you know you are moving away from the tornado, the best thing you can do is to find a strong structure," National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Foster told AP.

Experts say that overpasses are particularly dangerous during twisters because the wind can gather intensity as it squeezes through.


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