What to do if You’re in Your Car During a Tornado

hattiesburg tornado

An EF-4 tornado rolls vehicles in Forrest County, Mississippi, earlier this year. Even weak tornadoes can flip cars. Photo: NWS, Jackson, MS

Cheryl wrote me and asked “What do I do if I’m in a car during a tornado?”  Understand that if you have to stay in your vehicle, it is a very dangerous situation but here are some tips that can help from the National Weather Service and American Red Cross:

1. If you can, get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building away from windows in a small room such as a closet or bathroom toward the middle of the first floor.

2. If no building is near, get away from the car and seek shelter in a ditch. Lie down and cover your head once there.  Your goal is to stay beneath the debris that would be flying above you.

3. If tornado is right on top of you and you can’t exit the car, make sure your seat belt is fastened, put the car in Park, engage the parking break, lean down in the seat with your hands covering your head. You need to be down so that your head is below window level in case the glass breaks out.  Also, leave the car running so that the air bags will deploy if there is impact with large debris or if the car is lofted.

Even in weak tornadoes, cars are easily picked up and thrown.  An EF-0 with winds of only 70 miles per hour rolled over cars at a park in Franklin, TN, in 2012.   In stronger tornadoes, vehicles can become missiles.  Take a look at these tractor trailers being lofted hundreds of feet in the air last year last year near Dallas.

During days when severe weather is expected, make sure you have a way to hear warnings – even in your car!


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