Where to take cover during a tornado

Severe Weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — From a young age, many of us in Michigan were taught to head to a basement when the sirens wailed and a tornado warning flashed on the TV screen. But what do you do when you are caught away from a sturdy structure? 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN A CAR

Cars are incredibly unsafe in a tornado. The temptation can frequently be for people to try to outrun a storm when they find themselves near a tornadic supercell. Road networks, traffic and storms that change direction can lead to deadly results.

Even experienced storm chasers like Tim Samaras and his son have fallen victim to the lack of protection that comes from being in a car during a tornado. Both were killed in El Reno when a tornado changed directions and caught them off guard.

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Cars can easily be tossed and thrown by a tornado. Windows in the car easily allow debris to penetrate the interior of the car, too. 

Safety experts say the best course of action is to get out of your car and find a sturdy structure in which to ride out the storm, like a gas station or restaurant. If that is unavailable, a ditch is more safe than staying in your car. Find a ditch and get low in it. This will allow most of the debris that is flying in and away from the tornado to miss you. 

Do not hide under an overpass. The concrete seems safe, but it will act to funnel the wind and will intensify the wind speed. Anyone who hides under a bridge during a tornado is subjecting themselves to a more violent version of that tornado. High wind speeds can make it impossible to hang on. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN A MOBILE HOME

Mobile homes suffer massive damage when hit by even weak tornadoes. Mobile homes are not anchored to the ground, which makes them highly susceptible to damage. Mobile homes are frequently deadly when residents choose to stay in them during a hit. Outer walls frequently crumple and often the roof is peeled away, allowing a tornado to easily suck up anything inside. 

Instead, the best course of action is to position yourself near a safe spot on a day with severe weather. Head to a local supermarket or a friend’s house that has a basement or is anchored to the ground. 

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If a tornado catches you off guard, get out of the mobile home immediately. Do not get into your car. If no other options are available, the safest place to be is in a ditch.

One family of five in North Carolina survived an EF-2 tornado when they fled their mobile home and got into the ditch at the edge of their property. The home was destroyed.

Wind and debris will frequently flow above the ditch. The lower you can get in a ditch, the better. 

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