Just one month into the winter of 2012-2013, it seems pretty clear that severe weather is becoming a given, not a freak occurrence. For travelers who need to deal with tornado warnings, impending blizzards, hurricanes and other potentially catastrophic weather situations, Reed Timmer of Discovery Channels Storm Chasers is here to tell you how to plan wisely, avoid panic, and make it through the most extreme storms.
JustLuxe: If a normal person accidentally drives into a tornado watch zone, what should they do?
Reed Timmer: The first issue here is that a traveler should always be aware of a tornado watch when it is issued, and should not be caught by surprise. Other than watching the weather on television in advance, one way to be aware of impending severe weather is to always have a charged-up NOAA weather radio at home and when traveling. An alarm will sound given the issuance of any watches or warnings.
Id also recommend following our Facebook or Twitter pages during storm season or before traveling as we post continuous updates on severe weather not only in North America, but worldwide. You can also check the Storm Prediction Center Convective Outlooks and watch/warning pages just before you leave and throughout your trip at SPC.NOAA.gov.
RT: If youre still caught by surprise and you see a tornado approaching you on the road, the rule of thumb is to not try and outrun it. A good thing to remember though, is that if the tornado is not moving side to side and appears stationary, its either moving directly toward you, or directly awayso you should assume the former. If the tornado is distant and moving from side-to-side across your field of you, generally youre likely out of its path and just hang tight. If the tornado is close and you dont have time, you should abandon your vehicle and find a ditch or culvert and stay as low as possible until the tornado passes.
Research has shown that overpasses are actually more dangerous than a ditch or culvert for seeking shelter from tornadoes and even straight-line winds, since they can act to intensify the winds through the more narrow space between the supports on either side of the road. If it were me though in that situation, and PLEASE realize this is exactly what the NWS says NOT to do, Id hit the gas and get out of thereat least until youre in a position where the tornado is moving across your field of view and is at least a few miles away.
Also remember that just north of the tornado path there can often be hail to as large as softballs. We typically blow out around 5-10 windshields a year from baseball and larger hail as we punch through hail cores to intercept tornadoes. Getting struck by hail stones that large can be deadly, so be sure to use the ditch or culvert strategy as a last resort when there are no other options and if you have any question in your mind whatsoever that the tornado is about to hit you.