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Can you outrun a tornado in a car?

Tornado Preparedness

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris. Take time now to prepare. Know your risk, protect your home and plan your supplies and evacuation route. Texans can also follow the GLO for updates on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Medium, Facebook, and YouTube).

Be Prepared, Stay Prepared

  • Know your area’s tornado risk. In the U.S., the Midwest and the Southeast have a greater risk for tornadoes.
  • Know the signs of a tornado, including a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar like a freight train.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, then become familiar with the warning tone.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.
  • Identify and practice going to a safe shelter such as a safe room built using FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room or basement on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Plan for your pet. They are an important member of your family, so they need to be included in your family’s emergency plan.
  • Prepare for long-term stay at home or sheltering in place by gathering emergency supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, water, medical supplies and medication.

Staying Safe During a Tornado

  • Immediately go to a safe location that you have identified.
  • Pay attention to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Protect yourself by covering your head or neck with your arms and putting materials such as furniture and blankets around or on top of you.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle if you are in a car. If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible.
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Staying Safe After a Tornado

Save your phone calls for emergencies and use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends.

  • Pay attention to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and local authorities for updated information.
  • Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you are sick and need medical attention. Wait for further care instructions and continue to shelter in place.
  • Wear appropriate gear during clean-up such as thick-soled shoes, long pants, and work gloves, use appropriate face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris .


  • National Weather Service Tornado Safety
  • Protective Actions Research for Tornado
  • Tornado Information Sheet
  • Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House
  • American Red Cross

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1700 N. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78701-1495 | PO Box 12873 Austin, TX 78711-2873
1.800.998.4GLO (4456) | 512.463.5001

How do you stay safe when driving during a tornado?

When a tornado is approaching and you are driving in a vehicle, what is the best way to stay safe? Some people interviewed offered tips, including WPTV First Alert Meteorologist James Wieland.

Posted at 12:08 AM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 01:22:07-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — When a tornado is approaching and you are driving in a vehicle, what is the best way to stay safe?

Some people interviewed offered advice, including WPTV First Alert Meteorologist James Wieland.

Do you stay in the vehicle or seek shelter?

«The tornado was just going so fast and he was just stuck, I wouldn’t know what to do,» Qwalique Cuyler said in reaction to the tornado like the one that struck northern Palm Beach County on Saturday, including vehicles flipped over.

Michael Doria from West Palm Beach said: «I would try to find some kind of cover, a bridge and drive underneath and just pray we don’t go blown away.»

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WPTV’s Joel Lopez asked First Alert Meteorologist James Wieland: «So over the weekend we saw an EF2 tornado so what kind of damage can that cause?»

«An EF2 is about 130-mile-per-hour winds and what we saw it do is lift this ton and a half vehicle up in the air like it was nothing,»

Wieland said if you’re caught in your car during a tornado, you should find shelter or buckle in.

«We used to think getting underneath the overpass was the safe place to be when in actuality that’s not the thing to do at all. In fact that’s worse because it speeds up the winds funneling underneath the overpass,» Wieland said. «Plus you’re going to clog up the road and you’re still going to get hit by debris.»

He said cars are designed for impact, but it’s biggest weakness is the windows.

«That’s where you’re going to see the projectiles can go through any of these windows so what you want to do is bend down, get below the window if you can,» said Wieland.

He said to avoid your steering wheel as the airbag could deploy, and not to try to outrun a tornado as they can move at speeds of 70+ mph.

«You gotta make that split-second decision on what’s to be my best chances to survive,» Wieland said.

He said it’s best to stay weather aware and to avoid being on the roads when there’s a threat of a tornado.

Copyright 2023 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Can you outrun a tornado in a car?

Tornado Safety Tips


Look & Listen for
. large hail, heavy rain, strong winds, frequent intense lightning . bulge with a rotary motion at the base of the thunderstorm cloud . loud roar like the sound of a jet or train.

Seek Safe Shelter
A basement is best. Otherwise choose ground-floor center rooms surrounded by other rooms. Never choose upstairs locations because tornado wind speeds increase with height above the ground. If you live in the City of Crookston and live in a mobile home of a home without a basement, the City will provide safe shelter in the basement of City Hall.

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(click hear for a map of the location of the City Hall shelter)

Choose rooms on the north and east sides of your shelter if no interior rooms are available. Stay near the innermost walls. Avoid rooms on the south and west, because tornados usually travel from southwest to northeast.

Choose a small closet or bathroom, because small rooms are less susceptible to collapse. Take shelter within the bathtub if there are no glass tub enclosures or large mirrors nearby.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Stay calm.
Seek shelter IMMEDIATELY!
Keep a portable TV/radio and flashlight in your shelter.
Wear shoes to protect your feet from broken glass and other debris left by the storm.
Protect head and chest- crouch, face to floor, hands behind head.
Cover yourself with blankets, pillows or coats.
Hide under sturdy furniture.
Avoid candles, gas lanterns and oil lamps.
In schools and offices: seek designated shelter in interior rooms or hallway’s on ground floor, or lowest floor possible. Avoid auditoriums and gymnasiums.
In shopping malls, seek the smaller interior shops on the ground floor.
In shopping centers, avoid large open rooms as well as the south and west walls.
Evacuate mobile homes and vehicles! Seek shelter in substantial structure, ditch or culvert.

What is a tornado?
A tornado is the most violent atmospheric storm. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
According to the National Weather Service, although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. But Cleveland County has had them to
touch down in our area in the past.
In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries.

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Safe places you can go:
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, basements and interior rooms are the safest places to be during a tornado.
A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls and floors as possible between you and the tornado. Once you find a safe place, take shelter underneath a sturdy bench, table, or the stairwell. Crouch down and place your head between your knees, using your arms to cover your head.
On the other hand, the least safe place to be is in a car. If you are in a car, abandon it immediately and find a ditch to lie in. Most tornado deaths occur in cars. And never try to outrun a tornado; it may be moving faster than you think!
If you do find yourself in a tornado’s path, go to the basement. If there is no basement, go to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a bathroom or closet. If possible, cover yourself with a blanket or mattress to protect yourself from flying debris.
Remember to stay away from exterior walls or glass-enclosed places and windows.

A warning versus a watch:
A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for producing a tornado. When a tornado watch is issued, keep an eye on the weather and go over the tornado safety plan with your family. If weather conditions worsen, seek shelter.
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been spotted. In the case of a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

Tornado danger signs:
When a tornado is approaching, a dark, often greenish sky, a wall cloud and large hail may appear.
A loud roar similar to that of a freight train may be heard. An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. This is the calm before the storm.
Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm and it is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

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Be prepared before the storm hits:
By the time a tornado is heading toward you, it is usually too late to make a plan. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you should:
• Conduct tornado drills each tornado season.
• Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat.
• Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the «family contact.» After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person. This will help should the family be separated during the storm.

Preparing a tornado safety kit:
Have you disaster supply kit ready and on hand.

After a tornado:
1. Help injured or trapped people.
2. Give first aid when appropriate.
3. Don’t try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
4. Call for help.
5. Turn on a radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
6. Stay out of damaged buildings.
7. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
8. Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
9. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the building if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
10. Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents, for insurance purposes.
11. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance—infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

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