Severe Weather Safety While on the Road

A road running to the horizon under a dark cloud

Let’s be blunt: Don’t ever take the threat of severe weather lightly, especially while on the road.

Proper preparedness in the face of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other severe weather may literally determine whether you and your family live or die.

And being on the road, in any type of vehicle, is one of the most dangerous places to be during a severe weather event.

Tornadoes can roll and flip vehicles, even the largest and heaviest ones. Strong winds often bring down trees, flattening cars.

As the height of tornado season approaches, consider the dangers of traveling before you get on the road.

Before you travel, ask yourself:

Is this trip really necessary?

Many times, we think that a trip that we simply want to take is a trip that we must take. But rarely is that ever the case. If the National Weather Service has issued a warning about severe weather, consider postponing your trip until after the danger is gone.

Can I monitor the weather situation as it develops?

If you decide that you must travel, despite severe weather, gather as much information as you can about how bad it is, where it’s likely to head next, and when it will have passed your intended path.

You can follow weather reports online and via TV and radio. The NOAA radio network transmits weather forecasts and updates on watches and warnings 24 hours a day. When you’re in your vehicle, find a local radio station that is broadcasting weather updates and heed its warnings. And remember that satellite radio will not provide you with warnings appropriate to your location.

Ideally, when traveling, especially during severe weather, you should keep a battery-powered weather radio or one that you can power by turning a crank. Investing in a hand-crank flashlight is a great idea too!

How well do I know the area I’ll be passing through?

Of course, severe weather can harm you even if you’re just traveling in your own neighborhood. But the farther you travel, and the less familiar the territory, the more likely it is that you could run into trouble during severe weather.

If you must travel, familiarize yourself with your route before you start off. Becoming more geographically-aware also empowers you to see the bigger picture when assessing danger. For instance, the National Weather Service issues severe weather warnings according to counties. That means that knowing which counties you will transit on your trip may improve your chances of avoiding the worst dangers.

Can I cope if my device fails me?

In the days before mapping apps and other GPS technology, travelers had to depend on folding maps stuffed in glove boxes. These may seem quaint or outdated to many people now. But paper maps actually had one major advantage over the electronic ones in our modern devices: They wouldn’t fail in severe weather.

Imagine that a tornado takes down a cellphone tower. Or maybe your phone reception is too poor because you’re in a remote area. That glove-box map can still be your trusted navigator.

Do I have a contingency route?

You may encounter unexpected physical hazards on the road itself. Maybe a part of your intended path will be underwater. There could be a fallen tree or downed power lines blocking your way. High winds may have blown debris onto the road.

If you had to turn around, would you still find your way? This is where your ability to read a map might come in very handy. But it’s even better if you can plan an alternate route before you even start your trip.

Will I know where to go to best protect myself on the road?

As stated earlier, a vehicle is not a safe place to be during severe weather.

But if you do find yourself out on the road during a sudden bout of severe weather, there are some important things to remember. Could you answer the questions below?  

What should I do if I’m driving and I spot a tornado?

  • Do stay calm. Panicking will never help you think more clearly or make good decisions.
  • Do get off the road and seek sanctuary in a sturdy structure. Obviously, a dedicated storm shelter will offer you the best protection. But in a pinch, being in a truck stop or a roadside restaurant is much better than trying to ride out the weather in a vehicle.
  • Do follow the basic guidelines to protect yourself during a tornado.
    • Get in—place yourself in a solid structure as far from exterior walls as you can
    • Get down—go to the lowest place in the building; a basement, if possible
    • Cover up—crouch down and cover your neck and head to ward off injuries from flying debris

What should I not do if I’m driving and I spot a tornado?

  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. Tornadoes can move very quickly, and the direction of their movements can be unpredictable.
  • Don’t park your vehicle under a bridge or highway overpass. These structures are not designed to provide a safe haven during severe weather. In addition, you may end up blocking traffic that needs to pass, including emergency vehicles.
  • Don’t attempt to drive through flowing or standing water on or off the road. You have no way to accurately gauge how deep a pool of water may be or how strong a current actually is. Your vehicle may become stuck or even be swept away.
  • Don’t put yourself in any situation where you might be trapped in your vehicle or stuck on a roadway with no hope of finding a proper shelter.

What about seeking shelter in a ditch?

Finally, if you’re on the road and confront severe weather and you absolutely cannot get to a sturdy building for shelter, you can seek out a ditch or a ravine to lie in. But doing this should be your last resort. Even though you’re below ground level, you’re still susceptible to being struck by flying debris. A tornado might even lift your own abandoned vehicle and turn it into a missile, weaponizing it against you as you lie in the ditch.

In Conclusion

Keep off the road, if at all possible, during an outbreak of severe weather. Always stay aware of your surroundings and monitor weather updates from a trusted authority. Get to a tornado shelter if you can, or take refuge in another sturdy structure if a dedicated shelter is not available.

Have a question about storm shelters? Reach out to the experts at Survive-a-Storm today at 888-360-1492 and learn how we can make your community safer!

Answers to Some Basic Questions about Storm Shelters

Contact Us