Since Kicking Tires last advised readers five years ago on what to do if they encounter a tornado while driving, the winds of change have kicked up quite a dust storm to cloud the issue. Meteorologists, severe-weather experts and safety advocates have found themselves vehemently at odds with one another since the Red Cross in 2009 changed its position on whether to stay in, or seek shelter anywhere but, a car in a tornado. The answer? It depends. What is clear is that now is a good time to learn how to survive a tornado if you're caught on the road.
According to USA Today, this year's tornado count was off to a slow start with only 155 twisters reported so far nationwide (resulting in two deaths), compared with the annual average of 286 by this time of year. However, this is all expected to change as we move into the heart of peak severe-weather season — mid-April through May — when the tornado threat is the greatest. In conjunction with this volatile time, The Weather Channel is promoting its twister-fixated Tornado Week programming all week.
Where's the safest place if you're caught on the road during a twister? There are a lot of variables behind the answer. The logic behind getting the heck away from your car in a twister is sound. Cars — like that tornado deathtrap, the mobile home — are not anchored to the ground and can easily be flipped by winds, scooped up entirely and bombarded with debris. But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center and the Red Cross' Tornado Safety Checklist, when faced with a scenario that offers no "safe" choices, you must make your own calls based on your circumstances.