How to Survive In a Car During a Tornado

This sunset looked like a funnel cloud in my side view mirror (it wasn't).

You’re caught on the road in some bad weather and you spot a tornado touchdown nearby. However far away it is, the winds are violently affecting your vehicle. What do you do to survive the tornado. Keep reading to find out do dos and don’ts of making it through an encounter with a twister while on the road.

Drive at a 90 Degree Angle Away from It

Ensure that the tornado is at a 90 degree angle from you as you’re driving away. If it’s on your passenger side, then drive forward unless it’s also moving in that direction. Always drive roughly perpendicular to the storm. You certainly don’t want to drive towards it, and the only other real option is to drive in the same direction the tornado is going, directly in front of it. Neither of these options is likely to have a favorable outcome for you.

Avoid Overpasses

Seeking shelter when you’re in trouble is an understandably natural reaction. Some shelters will work, but overpasses are the only ones you’ll likely find on the road. Overpasses are the last place you want to be, though. The strong winds can create even stronger vacuums, which can drag your car back into the storm, or even flip it.

If You’re Stuck In Your Car…

Sometimes there’s no other option than to ride out the storm in your car. Find a (relatively) safe parking place, put on your seatbelt, and leave the car running. Your airbags will only deploy when the car is running and they could save your life.

The main danger from tornadoes aren’t necessarily the strong winds, but what those winds fling across their path. Keep your head below the windowline and cover yourself with a blanket. This will give you some limited protection from shattering glass and potential debris flying through your car.

Get Below the Roadline

If you’re near a deep ditch, then you can exit your vehicle and lie down flat at the bottom of the ditch. Ensure that you’re far enough away from your car that you can avoid it if/when it gets tossed around. Cover your neck with your hands to minimize the chance that flying debris can hurt you there. Just as you did in school drills, know that your skeletal frame is protecting your organs in the back more than the front.

Staring down a tornado is frightening, especially when you’re forced to actively avoid it. But now you know what to do if you encounter this powerful force of nature on the road. Keeping a cool head and protecting yourself from debris is key to making it out alive.