Is it possible to outrun a tornado in a car? Many believe so, but they’re making a dangerous bet. While it’s true both cars and motorcycles are faster than tornadoes, the biggest problem with this line of thinking is they must also stay on the road and obey traffic laws. Tornadoes do not.
One might think, well, if a tornado is chasing me I’m not stopping at any stop signs or stop lights. I’m getting out of here as fast as I can! Adhering to this logic may be more dangerous than trying to outrun the tornado itself. Chances are you will get hit by a bunch of people who are thinking the exact same thing as you. Then none one will be going anywhere in a hurry.
To outrun a tornado is easy if you could drive as fast as you want, anywhere you want, but that isn’t the case. Unlike cars, tornadoes don’t obey traffic laws and can go wherever they want. They don’t have to wait for stop lights, stop at stop signs, go the speed limit, wait in traffic, get stopped by an accident, or look out for other people in their way. And although most tornadoes travel at about 35 mph, which isn’t that fast, it’s very difficult to outrun one if in a populated area for the reasons previously mentioned. They can also change direction and speed in a moments notice. If out on the open road, you do stand a better chance outrunning one, but if the roads are flooded or baseball size hail is falling, you’re not going to be moving very fast, especially when the front windshield is missing.
So, the best thing to do is not try and outrun a tornado if within city limits. It’s best to get inside a building, and if it has a basement, get as low as you can. If it doesn’t, then go to the most interior room and hunker down. Getting in a car and trying to outrun the tornado could be fatal, especially if a lot of other people are trying to do the same thing.
And don’t be fooled into thinking your car will offer any protection if the tornado catches you. The tornado will simply pick your car up, with you in it, and throw it hundreds of feet possibly landing upside down where there is little protection.
If you are out in the open country, make sure you stay on paved roads as they are least likely to suddenly end or get washed out with torrential rain often associated with large thunderstorms. Obey the traffic laws and don’t drive 120 mph down the road. Try and find a well established road that travels perpendicular to the tornado’s current path. If it doesn’t look like you can get out of the tornado’s path and it’s going to hit you, get out of your car and lay in a ditch as low to the ground as possible. That may sound insane, but the winds speeds are dramatically slower the closer you are to the ground. Even a small ditch will be safer than inside your car.
… and do not seek shelter under an overpass!