Tornadoes and Cars: What's Safest?

By Lindsay Clein , Daniel Shedd |

Published 04/30 2014 09:50PM

Updated 04/30 2014 10:16PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --  It's one of the deadliest places to be during a tornado-- inside our cars.

During the storms this week, a man in Quapaw, Oklahoma died after a wall collapsed on his car.  Two people also died while driving through a storm in Mississippi.

We always hear experts stressing about where we should go while inside our homes when a tornado hits, but what happens if we are in our cars?  While experts say it's a very risky situation, there are things we can do to try to stay safe.

"The car is one of the worst places possible you can be during a tornado," says Training and Exercise Specialist and Meteorologist Mark Burchfield.  "Because there is no safe option for you."

Burchfield knows just how fast a tornado can travel.

"It's a split second," he says.  You may be driving and boom you're in it.  So then what are you going to do?  It's a very tough situation that a lot of people will face."

Experts say there are ways to pedal toward safety.

"Stay off to the side of the road and keep your seat belt buckled," says Burchfield.  "And what that does is if your car is rolled or if anything impacts you, you can stay in your vehicle and have a much better chance of survival.  Also, duck down kind of below the window line so if debris comes through your car, you can have a much better chance.  That way, you're not susceptible to debris."

Burchfield says if getting out of the way of the tornado's path is not possible, there's really only one other alternative.

"Get out and get in the ditch if it's a lower spot than the car.  If it's a higher spot, you don't want to do that--you want to get as low as possible," says Burchfield.  "You don't want to get underneath your car-- you want to get down in a ditch or culvert if that option is there."

Experts say to also steer clear of bridges.

"If you park under a bridge, it stops people from continuing on and people can also get sucked out from underneath it.  "It's just not your best option so it's not advised to do that."

Experts say the most important thing to do is plan ahead.

"Having that plan in place and thinking about it ahead of time can possibly save your life," says Burchfield.

Burchfield adds that if you're in the city, it's best to use those extra few seconds to get out of your car and run into a building to take shelter.  He also says it's a good idea to have weather radios in vehicles and even helmets to help prevent head injuries.

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