Sunday, March 04, 2012

Tornadoes and driving; travel and vacation tips

People in Delano, Etowah or Tellico Plains and they will surely tell you about tornado that swept through. The National Weather Service in Morristown, TN confirmed that an EF-2 ripped through McMinn County. This was part of a storm system that sped through several East Tennessee counties.

I have been in severe weather when we were on vacation and it isn't fun. No driver wants to be faced with a tornado. Where do you go, when you are on a vacation don't know where to go? Drivers on a road trip can't develop a plan based on knowledge of the area.

If you are driving and see a tornado what do you do? Do do you find an overpass or outrun it?

According to the National Weather Service the answer is neither. It turns out that overpasses can be dangerous in a tornado. A wind tunnel effect causes the winds under the bridge to be stronger under an overpass. The NWS says that trying to outrun it isn't an option either.

Where to go and what to do is a judgment call. A rest area may be too far away to be of help. Drivers who are on vacation may have to make a split second decision with limited information. It's not the best scenario and the advice is mixed.

For years, the NWS has suggested abandoning the vehicle in favor of a low lying ditch, culvert or ravine. This was even disussed in the last spotter training that I attended. However; the Washington Post says that this thinking may be changing. Staying in your car, buckling your seat belt and hunkering down may be the thing to do. 

I've found that rest areas in some states double as storm shelters. Using a map to gauge the rough location is helpful. Staffed rest areas can provide travelers with up to can weather information. The staff at these centers know the area best and are often valuable sources of information.
As of now, the jury is still out and every driver has to decide for themselves.

A simple weather radio alerts us to bad weather when my family is on vacation. They are easily ordered from Amazon. Personally, I always keep an eye on the sky and come off the road early. Waiting until a full blown severe storm hits is counter productive.

I have found is that any emergency requires a calm head and quick thinking. This goes for severe weather and may be the most essential vacation accessories that you can pack. Of course, having that weather radio helps too.

Do you have any suggestions? Leave them in the comments section below.