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Tornado safety

The guy who lives in Stilwell should already know by now that being in a car in a tornado is a very bad idea. It would not really be possible to tie down the car well enough to be certain it wouldn’t be thrown around in the tornado. His house has a basement. When the tornado sirens go off, that’s where they should go. If the house is actually hit by a tornado the car, in the garage, would probably be sucked up, along with anyone foolish enough to be inside, and deposited – violently – who knows where. If they are all in the lowest level, the basement, they may well survive.

Correct. There are only two vehicles that have a good chance of surviving a tornado - TIV 1 and 2. They’re custom-built tornado intercept vehicles used by a storm chaser who’s trying to get Imax footage of the inside of a tornado. They have tons of weight, special aerodynamics, and claws that dig in to the ground. And even those vehicles couldn’t possibly survive a strong tornado.

Also, even if you could find some magic rope that was strong enough to hold the car down, the tornado and associated debris could easily punch through the window and kill you.

Hear! Hear! Unless the car is anchored to the floor by the straps they use to secure planes to aircraft carriers, it would be a very bad idea to hide in a car during a tornado. Cars are mostly empty space, made to be light and have lots of glass. Also, garages are normally placed at the periphery of a house. Lacking a basement, the center of a home is safer than on the edge. If you want to hide in a vehicle during a tornado, make sure it’s a Stryker or a Bradley.

Exactly! People who live in tornado country should know to never ever be in their vehicles during a tornado warning, whether you are on the road or at home. The caller has a basement (as Duchess of Gadsden notes!) so he and his family should use it! If they want a radio, they should have a portable weather radio from NOAA that will tell them about tornado warnings and have batteries so that they can use it in the basement.

Make that 3… TIV 1, TIV 2, and Reed Timmer’s “Dominator”… the latter actually did survive a direct impact with an F2 tornado on June 17,2009… though the results still weren’t all that pretty, with plenty of cuts to those inside…

And that’s exactly why I didn’t include it. :wink:

The car survived, but with a blown out driver side window. It was a show-piece that Timmer made most likely because the producers of that dumb Storm Chasers show wanted to rig up some “competition” between Timmer and Sean Casey’s TIVs. Essentially a stock truck with some crap tacked on to the body. He didn’t even bother replacing the window glass with something impact-resistant.

Actually, that thing did have Lexan windows, but the drivers side stuck and the loose screw behind the wheel was too busy jumping in and out of the thing to film that he didn’t realize it until it was too late, so he tried to make do with the factory window.

You can see fairly clearly in these pictures how that vehicle is really just a Chevy Tahoe with an “armor” shell:

Even TIV 2 was iffy at best in terms of design - its turret nearly came off when it got hit by a tornado.

I agree. If you don’t have a basement, pick an interior room like a bathroom or closet.

I kept meaning but forgetting to come by and see if other people commented on this lame advice from Click & Clack. Asking Tom & Ray their advice on tornado safety is a little like asking two guys who have lived their lives in South Florida how to handle a car in snow.

Back in 1960s, disaster planners used to advise, in the event of a tornado, opening the windows on one corner of the house to “equalize the pressure.” To demonstrate the folly of this advice, you only need to watch a video of a tornado hitting a house, such as . Not only does opening windows not prevent damage, it puts you in danger because it wastes time you should be using to find shelter. They don’t advise opening windows any more.

Direct hits from strong tornados are uncommon, even in Kansas in the heart of tornado alley, but if a tornado comes near your home, the best place to be is underground, not in a car with glass windows in a garage which may be swept away in seconds. And you don’t have time to tie the car down, not that that would reliably work if you did.

Well it seems to me like all of the photos of devastated homes still show the cars in the garage with the debris on top of them. I would argue that if you live on a slab home as I do, and if the storm devastated the house, being in the closet wouldn’t help much. I would also argue that if the storm could suck up the car it would certainly more easily suck you from your closet.

I look at it this way. If I’m in my Suburban in my garage I have two levels of protection, the car and the house. How does anyone think a 4000 lb car is more likely to be sucked from a garage than a 200 lb man from his closet?

The best thing to do in your vehicle with a tornado is stay away!

Seriously, it’s mobile - just drive the other direction - quickly. If it’s really close - find a culvert or underpass quick and forget your car.

Underpass is a terrible idea. I know that news crew took shelter under one, but they got lucky because the tornado passed behind where they were hiding. The wind you saw was an inflow jet, not the tornado itself. Had the tornado struck the bridge, the people under it would have been up in the debris path and could have been hit by anything that was flying in the tornado. Plus, since an underpass is a narrow opening, it accelerates the wind, which would intensify the experience. And finally, remember that the I35W bridge collapsed in Minnesota on a day where there were no severe storms at all. You can’t tell the structural soundness of a bridge just by glancing at it while you’re running away from a tornado, and so you can’t estimate whether or not it will survive the impact. It’s much better to get into a low-lying ditch.

As for driving the other direction, unless you know what you’re doing (in which case you’re probably a chaser and not trying to get away from it in the first place) trying to drive away from a tornado can be more dangerous than staying put. The tornado you see might not be the only tornado out there, and the other one (or more) could be rain-wrapped so that you can’t see it. And the tornado can change directions and doesn’t have to follow roads like you do. Even experienced chasers have had plenty (too many) close calls with tornadoes. They’re not something you can just easily drive away from.

Ratcat: It would be better to install a tornado shelter in the yard. Barring that, you’d be better off waiting out the storm in the bathtub. We’re not talking about getting sucked up into the tornado here - we’re talking about being inside a vehicle that’s tumbling over and over in the tornadic winds. Ever seen a rollover wreck? Imagine if the car had rolled 100 times. You’d be mangled in it.

With That Recent Record Number Of Tornados That Hit The U.S. I Was Listening To The News.

Some guy had a full-size pick-up truck parked nearby. After the tornado went through, the truck was gone. According to the report the truck had not been found. Don’t know if it’s been located yet, but that’s crazy.

The story argues in favor of staying out of cars during severe storms.


So does this:

And this:

Oh, and this:

Two people died in that one.


Get informed, protect yourself, stay safe. These are from people far more informed and experienced than me, and lots of historical data. Just like the whole engineer thing: Who am I to say their judgement was flawed? I can only say for sure I don’t know what they were thinking. If I did, I might understand it. In the meantime, I have to just follow directions.