Though they can strike in any season, tornadoes occur most often in the spring and summer. Approximately 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. every year. While every state is at risk, the majority of these spinning storms happen east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Tornadoes can be tricky—with warning signs suddenly appearing. NWS, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), issues a tornado warning when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
On average, tornado warnings are issued just 13 minutes before the event, but warning times may vary and may be much shorter.
So what is a driver to do in order to prepare for a potential tornado, or worse still, if he or she finds himself driving through a tornado? Experts from FEMA offer the following advice on how to prepare for, and stay safe, in the event a tornado is headed your way while you are behind the wheel.
Pack a 3-day Kit—Drivers should keep an emergency bag in their vehicles. Make sure it is a “grab and go” kind of satchel—light enough to carry, as you need to leave your vehicle once a tornado is on the way. Kits should include a first aid kit, water, food such as protein bars, a small flashlight, and a pocketknife.
Download an App—There are apps available that can help drivers stay on top of tornado alerts. These are ideal for anyone driving through Tornado Alley, the heart of which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, eastern Colorado, and South Dakota. One app to look for is known as Tornado Spy.
Don't try to outrun a tornado—Tornados touch down in various locations and change directions rapidly. If you know one is on the way while you are driving, do not try to outrun it; this can be very dangerous. Pull over as soon as you see a building where you can take cover.
Leave the vehicle and seek shelter—Drivers should never stay in their vehicles during a tornado because vehicles can literally leave the ground and fly away. Ideally, you want to find a storm shelter or a basement. But if you can’t locate one of these quickly, take cover in any small interior room and stay far away from windows and anything else that can break or shatter.
Don't go to an underpass—Never take cover in an underpass because it can turn into a wind tunnel and you can be struck by flying debris.
Find a ditch—If you are driving in the middle of the nowhere and there are no buildings in sight where you can take shelter, it is still critical to abandon your vehicle. Get out of the car and take shelter in a ditch. Stay as low as possible and cover your head.