The Absolute Worst Places to Be During A Tornado

There’s a lot of mis-information when it comes to good places to be during tornadoes. One of the most teeth grinding pieces of advice meteorologists hear today is that under a highway overpass is a safe place to be during a tornado… THIS IS ABSOLUTELY 100% FALSE AND DRASTICALLY INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING KILLED! Don’t do it!

Without further ado, here’s a short list of really bad places to seek shelter if you are caught out and about during a tornado:

  • Highway overpass
    • This is the absolute worst place to be! The overpass acts as a wind tunnel and can actually amplify the winds and debris flying beneath it. I can’t stress this enough, do not do it… you are safer in a ditch in a nearby field than you are under an overpass.

  • Trailer Park/ Mobile Homes
    • Besides being apparent tornado magnets, these things are a pretty tough place to try and ride out a tornado. They have a tendency to flip. roll or be tossed straight up in the air. If the flight doesn’t get you, the flying debris or a tree falling on top of it could do the trick. In this case, you’re better off in a shelter, a sturdy structure or a below grade ditch if nothing else is available.

 

  • Car/Vehicle
    • These suffer many of the same problems as mobile homes, they’re light, they flip easily and have a lot fo glass and debris that can cause issues. Not to mention, if you try to outrun a tornado in a car, it’s a race you will most likely lose. This another case where if you can, find a below grade ditch or a sturdy structure to hide in until the storm passes.

Our friends at the Weather Channel found out just how bad of an idea it is to try to outrun a tornado in a vechicle. This truck was thrown nearly 200 yards away from the highway and is estimated to have rolled nearly a dozen times.

All of the weather channel crew survived this episode but with severe and life altering injuries. Don’t try to outrun a tornado… period.


Putting on Our Myth-Busters Hats

Here’s a few common myths about tornadoes that I’ve been looking forward to busting!

  • Hiding under a highway overpass is a safe place to be during a tornado

Now you’re just pushing my buttons… ugh…

DO NOT TAKE SHELTER UNDER HIGHWAY OVERPASSES!

  • Areas near lakes, rivers and mountains are safe from tornadoes
    • Tornadoes can often form over water (called waterspouts) and in Colorado there are several documented tornado touchdowns in the mountains West of Denver and South near Colorado Springs. In fact, there was a tornado touchdown on Pikes Peak a few years back. No place is safe from a tornado!
  • Opening your windows in your home can save it due to equalizing the low pressure outside and inside
    • I’m not entirely sure where this one came from, but all opening your windows does is delay your ability to get to safety. Not only that, opening your windows can actually cause more damage to your home. Don’t waste time to open your windows, when a tornado is approaching, seek shelter!

 

By knowing some of these bad places to be during a tornado, the hope is you can learn to avoid them. Keep an eye to the sky this spring and be safe!

 

John R. Braddock
Storm Chaser/ Amateur Meteorologist at Mountain Wave Weather
John R. Braddock is a NOAA/NWS Certified Storm Chaser and Amateur Meteorologist living in Castle Rock, Colorado. A graduate of Colorado State University with a Bachelor's in Computer Science and a Colorado native, he specializes in short range forecasting, severe weather and mountain weather dynamics.

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