By on May 23, 2014

Tim Samaras car

For decades, conventional wisdom has said that a car is the worst place to be caught during a tornado, besides maybe a mobile home. Hundreds of photos of demolished vehicles thrown about by violent twisters seem to provide ample support for that conclusion. Driving instructors, safety advocates, and meteorologists have all argued that a ditch or culvert provides better protection than an easily-overturned car. Over the last decade or so, however, a debate has been brewing between weather and safety experts about the soundness of this advice.

About five years ago, the American Red Cross revised its guidelines for motorists caught in the path of a tornado. Instead of encouraging drivers to abandon their vehicles and seek shelter in a ditch or culvert, the group advises that “your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.” You should only ditch your car “if you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway.” Otherwise, the group claims, you’re better off staying in your car with your seatbelt buckled and your head tucked below the level of the glass. The group further advises that you’re better off “abandon[ing] your mobile home immediately” and seeking shelter in a vehicle than trying to ride out a tornado in a house trailer.  Of course, a basement or “sturdy shelter” of any type is preferable to these options.

As Dr. Greg Forbes of the Weather Channel explained in this article from 2009, these new guidelines provoked controversy. They contradicted many years of advice and advocacy from various safety groups, including the National Weather Service (NWS). The Red Cross justified its new stance in part by referencing the work of weather researcher Thomas Schmidlin and his partners, including this paper. In that article, the researchers found that stationary vehicles were rarely overturned by low-to-medium strength tornadoes; they based their conclusions on damage surveys as well as wind-tunnel tests. It seemed reasonable to conclude that stationary vehicles offered better protection from tornado-force winds than easily destroyed mobile homes or foregoing protection entirely. However, the group’s report avoided drawing conclusions about the effect of tornado-force winds on moving vehicles, citing insufficient data.

Another hot-button issue is the ability of cars to evade tornadoes in the first place. Several groups now argue that this is possible and can be attempted, but only in limited circumstances. Dr. Forbes recommends driving at a right angle away from the tornado in his article, if you can determine the direction of its path and if the way ahead is clear. The Weather Channel’s official guidelines advise that “if you can safely drive away from the tornado, do so.” Ready.gov, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public outreach site, says that you should never attempt to outrun a tornado in “urban or congested areas.” Highways and rural areas are unmentioned, leaving the door open for escape attempts when the road is clear. However, the Centers for Disease Control disagrees sharply with that recommendation. So does weather-forecasting site AccuWeather, which advises against both outrunning a tornado in your car and staying inside a vehicle once a tornado is spotted.

Despite this controversy, many groups and agencies have issued updated guidelines in the last several years. The NWS now echoes the Red Cross in its recommendations; so does FEMA. The CDC seems to be alone amongst federal agencies in continuing to advocate the older approach. All the agencies and groups surveyed agree on one point, though: overpasses and bridges will NOT protect you from a tornado. These exposed structures actually increase your chance of being injured. Even lying in a field is less risky than hunkering under an overpass or a bridge abutment.

Although it’s not hinted at in any of these safety guidelines, another reason the conventional wisdom is changing may be advances in vehicle technology. The average car or truck of today is far more crush-resistant than the vehicles of twenty or more years ago. That, coupled with the fact that even inexpensive cars now have a plethora of airbags and crumple zones, makes impacts much more survivable. Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes and his support crew survived this crash last year while filming the El Reno tornado, the widest twister in recorded history. Their GMT900 Suburban showed the dividends of a highly reinforced body shell coupled with an extensive airbag and restraint system. Although the roof partly caved in, it was a far cry from the early days of tin-can SUVs with weak structures like the first-generation Explorer, 4Runner, and Samurai.

Not everyone caught out by the El Reno twister was so lucky. Veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and research partner Carl Young all died when their Cobalt, pictured above, was lifted from the road and virtually obliterated by the tornado. Their deaths, as well as Bettes’ accident, led to a reevaluation of TWC’s protocol for covering tornadoes; camera crews and chasers now hang farther back from the path of the storm.  What can we learn from this debate? Mostly, that riding out a tornado in your car is still a risky proposition. A secure shelter like a basement or a bathroom is always a better alternative, if it can be found in time. Improved vehicle technology has increased the likelihood of your survival if you are caught out by a twister, at least in relatively weak storms. However, powerful tornadoes with 300 mph winds like the El Reno monster are more than enough to destroy most road-going vehicles. The best protection is still prevention: stay off the road when you know a tornado might be in your path.

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65 Comments on “Cars and Tornado Safety: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom...”


  • avatar
    LALoser

    “God hates trailers”: Dr Johnny Fever.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      An acquaintance of mine had a variant of this saying:

      “God hates trailer parks”, based on his observation that whenever a tornado smashed into a Midwestern town, there was always damage to some trailer park.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinker

      I read a science fiction story based on the belief tornadoes are living beings attracted to misery, as the reason so many trailer park are victimized. Makes as much sense as any theory.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        “I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park!” – Mater

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          That’s interesting, I wonder if anybody has something snappy to say about hurricanes in costal regions?

          • 0 avatar
            LALoser

            Lost ’bout everything I had on Guam during typhoon Omar. House gone, carport on top of truck, dog gone! She found her way back the next day.

          • 0 avatar
            Joe McKinney

            Growing up in the Florida Panhandle I heard stories about how the police try to encourage people to evacuate waterfront areas before a hurricane arrives. One is that they ask people for the names of their next of kin so they will know who to notify after the storm. Another is police asking people to write their names on their clothing to make it easier to identify their bodies. A variation of this story has police giving mortuary toe tags to people who refused to evacuate.

            I don’t know if there is any truth to these stories. It is remarkable that people choose to stay in waterfront locations that will soon be underwater. Even if a home is on pilings and high enough to be above the storm surge, in a Category 3 storm it will still be subjected to several hours of 110+ MPH winds.

  • avatar
    NN

    poignant article. last night I found myself sitting in a mobile home during a tornado watch, wondering what the best move would be. As it’s a waterfront property in a low-lying area, there are no ditches to hide in that aren’t filled with water. I thought the car would likely be the best option.

    • 0 avatar
      BobinPgh

      Better idea: tuck yourself into your Speedo, hold your breath as long as you can and hide underwater.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Even away from the coast, many ditches and culverts you’re advised to take shelter in are likely to fill with torrential level rain water. I doubt the need for a speedo, but in tornado country, keep a snorkel in your car!

      There’s also the case of seeking shelter under a bridge, which will hold up, but you might be better protected staying in your car parked under the bridge to avoid the flying debris.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        “There’s also the case of seeking shelter under a bridge, which will hold up, but you might be better protected staying in your car parked under the bridge to avoid the flying debris.”

        Bad, bad advice. The design of most highway bridges in particular makes them act like nozzles; the debris flying under the bridge will shatter your windows; if it doesn’t kill you, the glass will cut you up bad.

        And that is my concern with trying to survive a tornado in car. Having seen pictures of trees and walls speared by flying debris; it would seem like you will be very vunerable to getting speared by flying debris, or cut by the glass when objects break your windows. Hunkered down in a ditch; both are less likely.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    That’ll buff right out.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Everyone knows the only vehicle immune to tornados is a red 1995 Dodge Ram 2500.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Who chases tornadoes in a freaking Cobalt? Those fold up like an envelope even in mild accidents.

    I grew up in Joplin MO, which most people know was hit by an EF5 three years ago. That one cut right through town and was not easy to see as some tornadoes are. A couple years before that, a smaller, well defined tornado cut south of Joplin in the afternoon, and was quite visible. Many, many people got in their cars and drove away and had their houses damaged or destroyed in their absence. Like most advice, absolutes are rarely helpful. “Never try to outrun a tornado, or Never stay in your car.”

    I was reading the manual of the new F150 I bought, and observed with interest that if it ever rolls, the vehicle deploys a canopy of airbags around the cabin. That, coupled with a sturdy seat and seatbelt, can really save your bacon.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      >Like most advice, absolutes are rarely helpful. “Never try to outrun a tornado, or Never stay in your car.”

      This right here. Information about the benefits and dangers of taking cover in different places is helpful, but the circumstances will always be different. I know that if I’m on the highway and see a tornado up in the distance and the other direction is clear, I’m sure as hell not bailing out and staying in it’s path.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        There is another truth, too. Humans have a terrible habit of thinking they are exceptional. I don’t know much about tornadoes, and I doubt I would know how to judge when it was best to bolt or duck. Given my fancy Volvo though, I will take this new info and stay in it if rather than choose a shallow depression.

        If you want your kids to learn confidence and humility at the same time, get them flying lessons and ensure they read a lot about what gets pilots killed. It’s very often ignoring what they were taught.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “Who chases tornadoes in a freaking Cobalt?”

      Storm chasers drive long distances and they find hail much more frequently than tornadoes. A reasonably reliable, fuel efficient car with low resale value like a Cobalt is a good choice for this abuse. Tim Samaras got too close and the widest tornado on record cut off his escape route.

      • 0 avatar
        Timothy

        Not for nothing, but Tim & his crew usually chased in a Yukon Denali pickup and/or a GMC Heavy Duty crew cab. No idea why they were in the Cobalt, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. If you are slapped by a EF5 tornado nothing will save you accept a very sturdy storm shelter.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I think his kid was in the Cobalt; the remains of the pickup, IIRC, were almost unrecognizable as a vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            ??? (Thought this had been deleted!)

            I was wrong — according to the “Dallas Observer” article cited in this thread, Samaras’ team was on a shoestring budget last year, and was doing lighting research on a grant from Nat. Geo. (after he lost a big funding source after Discovery Channel dropped “Storm Chasers,” which had devolved into a showcase of storm chaser Reed Timmer’s ego, IMHO; I can give him a slight pass because unlike many folks with highly inflated senses of themselves, Timmer’s work shows the ability to walk the walk along with talking the talk), and he got a weather tip from a colleague about the weather blowing up in OK. For efficiency’s sake, they were using the Cobalt. From the article, his body was still belted into the car, and the driver had been thrown clear. (The article wasn’t clear, IIRC, if the third person, his son, was in the car, or if he was driving another vehicle, and both vehicles were caught in it; as heaven is my witness, I thought the latter was the case.)

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Tornados don’t arrive on a schedule, so when they appear, you chase them with the car you have, not the car you wish to have.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    We were traveling near Dekalb IL when we were approaching a tool booth that had a storm shelter. We noticed the tornado descending and when we stopped we were told the shelter was full and there were people standing outside trying to get in so we did the next best thing. I floored the car and off we went and as we got about a half mile down the road the tornado was picking up corn stalks and other debris directly across the interstate from us and a few seconds later pulled the passenger side window out of it’s tracks. We are now going 120mph and my passenger is yelling slow down so he can fix the window as it was bowed and he thought it was going to break. I said screw the window. I was glad the shoulders were wide as the other vehicles were in my way even though they were going flat out as well. We met a state patrol that I assume was going to help the people at the shelter. It took quite a wile for my sphincter to uncramp after that.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Richard Feynman said that “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” and here’s another example of it.

    Here we have the Red Cross, FEMA, the Weather Channel, the National Weather Service and the CDC, all well-respected, credentialed and official Capital-E experts discussing the same topic, but issuing different recommendations. Sometimes angrily.

    WHO ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE?

    If these “scientific experts” would at least present their ideas to the world as opinion backed up by data, that would be one thing. But they always claim that what they say is settled fact, and that we should trust them.

    Well, they can’t ALL be right.

    Maybe that’s the real lesson. Don’t trust ANYBODY and figure everything out for yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Trust whichever one is the most local. Some “experts” sitting in an air-conditioned office in Washington DC or New York or Los Angeles probably have no firsthand experience with what’s going on “on the ground”.

      • 0 avatar
        psychoboy

        Even then, it can get tricky, especially when you have three local guys giving varied advice at the moment.

        One local guy decided the El Reno tornado was on a path to obliterate a good section of OKC proper, a section I happened to live in. His advice was to get out of the path, as the tornado was of the house-removal variety. My fiancee started to freak out (since we had just witnessed the Moore tornado days before) and we decided to make a run for it.

        For us, it wasn’t a bad choice. When we turned tail, the tornado was still a dozen miles away from our house. We scrambled almost thirty miles south to my workplace, and saw not a drop of rain until we got there. In hindsight, we would have been fine to stay at home, since the tornado dissipated before it got there.

        Meanwhile, there were people who heard the same suggestion to scatter while the tornado was already effectively in their neighborhood. Some of those people decided to leave the relative safety of their homes for the somewhat riskier environs of their car. The fact that the tornado came thru an interstate footprint during rush hour did not help traffic at all. People who were running for it basically stacked up behind people who hit the brakes when they see the first raindrop.

        In short, even the best, most local news and advice comes from someone who is not standing in your yard, looking at your neighborhood. YOU have to gather all the good info, and make YOUR decisions based on it. If the El Reno tornado had followed standard Oklahoma tornado trends and held together like the last three Moore F5s have, we would not refer to it as the El Reno torndao. It would have cut a mile-wide swath thru nearly twenty miles of 50 to 100 year old homes, likely killing untold hundreds in the process.

        Sometimes you have to make the best bad decision.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      This is great advice. I’m happy to say that I was right about butter. AS a result I didn’t waste all those years suffering with margarine on my English muffins.

  • avatar

    Great article.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I had a tornado chase me in Florissant, MO, back in May, 1978. I gunned my 1976 Gremlin for all it was worth, and sped down a hill.

    Safe.

    When I went back up the hill, a disabled VW bug that was parked 50 ft. from a telephone pole was now smashed up against it!

    A nearby condo complex was tore up pretty bad, too.

    The path of the tornado was in the direction of our apartment at the time, and when I drove home, I found out from a neighbor above us that she was standing with her baby at the window looking at this thing coming toward her. When I told her it was a tornado, she said: “Is THAT what that was?” I was shocked, and had to pick my jaw up off the floor! But – as our apartment was downslope from the path, the tornado sailed directly overhead. No damage. The ground rose again a quarter mile later and the tornado tore up a few more neighborhoods.

    That’s the closest I ever want to be to one of those things, for sure.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    When I heard Samaras was killed in a tornado, I was very surprised. On “Storm Chasers” he was normally the one who wouldn’t get closer than 5 or 10 miles from one, while everyone else was penetrating the storm.

    In any case, it is plain that Bettes penetrated a storm that he definitely could see and recognize. Problem is, he did it in a plain non-reinforced vehicle. Bettes and his crew are lucky they are still alive.

    I can assure you that I have always believed that there is no way I’m going to lie exposed in a road side ditch while I have a car that can outrun even the fastest thunderstorm. I’ll either get away from it or die trying.

    Tornadoes can strip asphalt and concrete, so they would have no problem picking you up out of a ditch.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Bette’s was not attempting a penetration of the core – the storm dropped right on top of them and intensified at an unprecedented rate, they had no where to go.

      • 0 avatar
        Firestorm 500

        He purposely drove into it. You can see him passing slowed or stopped cars in the video as the storm is approaching from his right. You can see the storm gets worse in the area he chose to drive into. He could have stopped on the fringe and let it go by in front of him.

        It’s not like he was having a tailgate picnic and one just happened to drop in for a visit.

  • avatar
    KrohmDohm

    In 2008 a tornado ripped through Suffolk, VA. Ironically it took out many nice homes and several businesses. One small town it hit called Driver has a trailer park. This tornado went against convention and jumped right over the trailers and destroyed one business, damaged 3-4 others and damaged a couple houses. Strange.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    Fantastic article about the El Reno tornado that claimed the life of Tim and team. http://www.dallasobserver.com/2013-08-29/news/the-last-ride-of-legendary-storm-chaser-tim-samaras/

  • avatar
    ragtopman

    I’ve seen what an EF5 can do — and it was a Memorial Day weekend in 2008. I had just moved to Cedar Falls-Waterloo, Iowa, about a week earlier. My son and I were staying at an extended-stay place in CF, when the manager came around urging us to take shelter in the place’s basement. I peeked outside and saw the darkest, angriest front bearing right down on us. About 10 miles away, in Parkersburg, the town was being leveled. The storm missed us, but I went into Parkersburg a few days later and it looked like a moonscape. One of the eeriest sites I’d ever seen.

    I outran another storm, also in Iowa, when I was much younger. I was in college in April 1979 and working part-time for a store that was being upgraded. A co-worker and I were tasked to deliver a U-Haul full of fixtures to a store about 50 miles up the road in southwestern Iowa. It was April, and the weather had brought just about every type of condition imaginable that day. The early morning was snowy; then, as the day progressed, it was sunny and warming quickly. Got into the 70s. Then, by the time we were headed back to the home base, we could see a black wall of clouds headed our way. Soon, the front was above us and it started hailing against the van. Try sitting in one of those things in the middle of a hailstorm, and you’ll experience a roar at a decibel level you never thought existed. Then, it stopped, and all was still. Not a breath of wind. The van chugged along. I was in the passenger seat. I looked to the southwest and saw a tornado dip down out of the clouds, I’m guessing, about 5 miles distant. You could feel the air pressure being sucked out of the van, whose windows were closed. At first, I thought, ‘Hey, cool, a tornado; never saw one before.’ Then, the thing looked like it was headed directly toward us. It got bigger and bigger. The guy in the driver’s seat said he was gonna pull over and get in a ditch. I urged him to floor it, and he did. We couldn’t get that van go any faster than 40 mph. He said he was stopping. I told him if he did, I’d take the van and leave him behind. The tornado wasn’t one of those snake-like creatures I’d always seen in the media; it looked like a solid black curtain that descended to the farmland. We judged it was continuing northeast, and we were going due south. We passed it, just as we were leaving Braddyville, Iowa, a small town on the Missouri border. We got close enough that we could see branches and boards flying around in the giant wall. It continued going northeast, toward the town, and we left it behind. Later, we learned it destroyed half the little burg.

    I was only 21 then and prone to take chances; I’m not sure what I’d do in the same circumstance today — I guess I’d probably do as my co-worker wanted to do and take cover in a ditch, although I’m not sure there are any good options.

  • avatar

    Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or picked up by radar. You must immediately seek shelter.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t like how that advice is worded. If you are in your home & hear a tornado warning, obviously, don’t go outside, get in the car, and try driving. That’s dumb.

      But a more likely scenario for tornadoes & cars is to be in a rural area while driving and seeing a tornado. You’d better believe I’d immediately point my car away from it and put distance between me & it (unless I determine that it is heading right for me, in which case the 90 deg strategy comes into play). Would I race (i.e., try to outrun) it? Hell no. But I’m not going to sit around doing nothing and wait for it when I have both time and opportunity to improve my situation.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is the exact advice that the new guidelines in this article contravene, and they give fair reason for it.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      According to NOAA, the record tornado ground speed is 73 mph. So if you’re out on a road where you can safely and easily do over 70 mph with the tornado behind you, there’s no way it could catch up. Plus, it would be far more enjoyable to die running than to die hiding and praying.

  • avatar
    redav

    All else being equal, having a structure around you is far safer than being naked to the storm. Additionally, I strongly suspect that again, all else being equal, a car with its added mass & aerodynamics is less likely to be blown away than an unprotected person.

    It seems painfully obvious that if your situation cannot be substantially improved by leaving your car, it’s foolishness to do so. And even if there is a ditch in which to hide, I’d be inclined to park the car in the ditch and stay inside it.

    I do take issue with how the advice regarding overpasses is given. I recall a video of people who were caught by a tornado parking under an overpass and climbing up to the pinch point between the abutment & bridge. It had recessed pockets between the concrete I-beams and road surface that they were able to squeeze into (similar to http://www.aviancontrolsolutions.com/images/I-15_123rd_Bridge/12300_S_%20Before2.jpg). If such features exist, and if you can get to them, it would seem they would offer significantly more protection (dead zone of fluid movement, protection from debris). Obviously, all those people survived completely unharmed.

    But if there is not such a feature/location in which to hide, then I can certainly see how being under an overpass could be worse.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      The problem is the Venturi Effect. When the wind encounters an obstacle, or it gets squeezed between the ground surface and a bridge, it has to speed up because of the pushing air behind it.

      You might have a 100 MPH wind at the surface, and 130 MPH+ under a bridge. You’ve just moved up a level on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Not exactly. The Venturi effect is caused by conservation of mass. (I.e., rate of accumulation = rate of mass in – rate of mass out. When there is no accumulation (because the density stays essentially constant), rate in = rate out. And so if cross sections change, then velocities must change, too.) Because it is based on cross section areas, the Venturi effect is most applicable in contained fluid systems, like inside a pipe–the fluid has nowhere to go except through the restricted area. However, it is much less of an issue in open systems where the fluid can go virtually anywhere–through the restriction as well as around it.

        There’s also the issue of boundary effects. The velocity of a fluid flowing over an object at its surface is zero, and then there is a velocity profile (boundary layer) between it and the unobstructed flow field. In this layer, velocities are lower, and the fluid undergoes shear, hence drag. (This is why it’s much safer to lie on the ground–not only is your frontal area reduced, but also the wind velocities right next to the ground are lower.) Create enough drag and the the wind will preferentially go around the area instead of through (this effect reduces the effectiveness of wind turbines because wind ends up going around them instead of through them to turn the blades). That is also why a ditch is supposedly safer to lie in–there is more drag caused by the shape and additional surface area, so less mass flow enters the geometric irregularity.

        One of the key characteristics of fluid flow (like wind) is that it, like electricity, requires a circuit. For it to come into an area, it also need to go out. When there is no easy path for that to happen, you get a dead zone. Attics need soffit & ridge vents to ventilate. Opening a window in your home for a breeze does little unless you open another window across the room. Long, deep porches that are only open on the one side are calm no matter how hard the wind blows. Putting yourself in such a spot in a tornado or other wind storm will offer you better protection than being exposed to the full wind.

        APaGttH makes a much too general claim. The issue is not “under a bridge v. not under a bridge.” It is “are there protected areas or not.” In my area, such ‘protected’ pockets between I-beams & road surface & abutment are common (and are often occupied by the homeless who make themselves little camps there). Those in the video were safe not because they were under a bridge, but because they were in that cave-like nook which *did* offer them protection. Those who try to protect themselves just because ‘Hey, it’s a bridge!’ are obviously not going to have such a good time.

        That’s the problem. People say: “Bridge bad! Tornado smash!” But it really depends on shape, size, orientation, features, etc. Bridges aren’t inherently good (or bad), and likely they often aren’t good. It makes sense to say don’t count on one offering protection, but it’s foolish to assume that just because it’s a bridge it will make the situation worse or offer no protection.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      There are a numbers of people who have taken shelter under bridges, following the famous video shot in the 90’s as a way of survival. It’s a non-starter. They were incredibly lucky – most people who have done the same have not had the same happy endings. This video has created a massive misconception.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        You lost me. I would think if you could get up into an area so that you were out of the air flow you would be protected by the concrete or steel. Is this not the case?

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          You’re not up out of the airflow under the bridge – others who have attempted shelter have been beaten mercilessly into the girders over and over again by the force of the wind rushing by.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Is that because the girders are not solid? Or is it because turbulence under the bridge is such that even solid supports are not protection?

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            Turbulence created under the bridge due to Venturi formed under the bridge. Also tornado winds are not straight line, there is no brace and hold here under open girders.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Quick research showed that it depends on the design of the bridge, the height of the bridge, and your other options. As usual, the experts are trying to give advice to people with no idea of Bernoulli or construction methods, or relative merits of the possible choices as well as protecting the herd over the individuals.

            Seems like it’s the same as with leaving your car for a ditch or driving away. Depends.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The venturi effect is at roadbed level, if it exists at all. It all depends on where the tornado is moving relative to the bridge. You’ll get the greatest effect if the tornado is following the roadbed that runs under the bridge and crosses right over the bridge itself.

      The safest place overall is in the soffit, right under the girders. There’s a slope at each end of the bridge, the top of which is a flat space right under and between the girders. That’s where the homeless like to sleep, high, dry, and out of sight.

      It can be very dangerous, or very safe, depending on where the tornado is moving relative to the bridge. You have to know the movement and path of the tornado to make a judgment for yourself.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Tim Samaras was an extremely cautious chaser. His death rocked the chasing community. As I understand it the tornado about dropped on top of them and intensified at an unprecedented rate – they had no where to go.

    The storm was downgraded last fall to an EF-3 much to the disbelief of the storm chasing community.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Tornado classification convention is that if one occurs over open farmland, with little to no structures, it is classified as an EF0 as there is nothing that is damaged for comparison’s sake.

      Rating that tornado an EF3 went against convention. I guess because of the Cobalt’s damage and Samaris’ death they had to rate it as something.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Even though it’s seemingly full of contradictions, this article could save someone’s life, simply by encouraging them to think about what they would do in such a situation – the human race’s survival through the eons is based on our ability to think our way through perilous circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Or not. Some are Darwined out.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        True, but the capricious nature of twisters leaves much to pure chance as well. On May 2nd, an Arkansas woman was killed inside her “tornado-safe” room – the only part of her house left standing. There is an investigation (was the room FEMA-approved, was she able to close and bolt the door in time) – but even when you do almost everything right, tornadoes can still kill.

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  • Ronnie Schreiber