Tornado Q&A | Staying safe when you are outside during a tornado

\WICHITA, Kansas – Part of our job here at KSN is keeping track of storms. And when we are out we have a lot of tools, one of those tools is the KSN weather app.

If you are going to be out in your car, you need to know what’s going on and if it’s bad weather, don’t go there. But if you get stuck out here, it can be a very dangerous place.

Here is a conversation between KSN’s Craig Andres and Chief Meteorologist Dave Freeman talking about what to do if you are out driving and a tornado is nearby.

candres-201407 A good example of finding a tornado is when KSN shot the Moundridge tornado. We knew which direction it was going, we could tell it was going to pass off to the west of me. But, what if you get caught out there and you don’t know where to go?


dfreemanThat’s the key, look and see. Is it moving left to right? If it is, you can avoid. If it’s not appearing to be moving then it’s doing one of two things, it’s either going away from you or towards you, in which case you need to move at right angles to the storm.


If I can’t evade the tornado, where should I hide?

candres-201407 In Greensburg, with the horrific tornado, we’ve seen example after example after example of cars being crushed and thrown around. How about hiding in a ditch? There doesn’t seem like there is much cover down there, but it has better than being in a car.


dfreemanLet’s be clear, this is not good, just less bad. Here’s why. Notice the level of the roadway. The idea is that the wind and the debris will be sweeping by just over the top of your heads. It’s less likely the debris will scoop down into the ditch or drop something on top of you. It’s not a great place but certainly better than staying in that car.
Craig and Dave talk about taking cover in a ditch
Craig and Dave talk about taking cover in a ditch
candres-201407 Alright, here is another option. A culvert or a box culvert, the small tunnels that run underneath roads for water drainage. You see these everywhere you go. Do these offer some protection against tornadoes?


dfreemanIt’s less bad than staying in the car, but there are a couple of concerns to be had. One is the ‘Venturi Effect’ that can accelerate winds speeds through a confined space. The other thing is thunderstorms have a lot of rain. It’s very likely a culvert like this will be full of water or the water could come up quickly and that is dangerous as well.
Craig and Dave discuss cover near a culvert
candres-201407Here’s a question for you Dave, if I’m out driving and there’s a tornado, are overpasses safe? These are on the interstate, they are on country roads, should we take shelter in one of these?


dfreemanWe’ve all seen the famous KSN video of the overpass on the Turnpike tornado, but the reality is because the way the wind works, blowing through a confined space like this, it can actually be more dangerous to be under an overpass during a tornado.
Craig and Dave near an overpass
Craig and Dave talk about cover near an overpass


RELATED LINKS | What to do during a tornado?Tornado safety infographic Photos: Greensburg Tornado

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