Tornado season officially begins in March and lasts through August. In an average year in the United States, more than 1,200 tornadoes are reported. May holds the most twisters, but over the years April has had more of these deadly storms. Still, they can occur at almost any time of the year and in almost every part of the country.
Tornadoes strike particularly hard in Florida and “Tornado Alley” – a strip of land that runs through northeast Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. But tornadoes do hit every state. Many experts believe that our country has at least three Tornado Alleys, including the one above; one from Arkansas and Louisiana east to the Carolinas; and one through the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes region from Illinois to western Pennsylvania. Smaller regions include the Florida Peninsula and Massachusetts.
Because they can happen virtually anytime and anywhere, it’s wise for motorists to know how to react if they’re on the road when a tornado strikes.
- Most importantly, be proactive. Keep an eye on the weather. The National Weather Service issues alerts when tornadoes are probable. When you know an alert is in effect, stay home. When a twister strikes, seek shelter in the basement or an inside hallway at the lowest level. If these options aren’t available, get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hang on to it.
- If you must be out, never attempt to out-drive a twister in a car or truck. The most violent tornadoes are capable of winds up to 250 mph and can effortlessly fling a car or truck through the air. If for any reason you must stay on the road, head in a direction that’s perpendicular to the storm in an attempt to evade its path.
- If there’s time, abandon the car and get to a permanent building, as low and as far inside as possible.
- If you don’t have time to seek more secure shelter than your vehicle, your options are relatively limited. You can stay inside your parked car, but vehicles can become airborne or roll over. Another option is to leave your vehicle and seek a low-lying ditch, but this should be a last resort because of the potential for flying debris and flooding. If you choose this course of action, make sure to leave a good amount of distance between you and your car, and cover your head and chest to protect yourself from debris.
- No matter what, NEVER seek shelter under a highway overpass. Depending on its configuration relative to the tornado, an overpass can produce a wind-tunnel effect. Overpasses can also be collection areas for all the flying debris produced by the twister. Additionally, congregating under overpasses during any threatening weather condition creates an extremely dangerous traffic hazard.