Is a car a safe place to be during a tornado? Great question brought to light from the Moore, OK disaster.
I just received a question by e-mail from a viewer who wanted to know: should I get in my car during a severe storm event?
Great question. There's been some discussion about this lately and it can be a bit confusing.
The absolute safest place to be when a tornado hits is underground. Storm shelter, cellar, basement, etc. When that's not available, the next safest place is in the center of your home away from windows (and flying debris). The thought process here is that the outward surrounding walls have the greatest probability of protecting you from wind damage.
Now, that having been said, there are few things that can stand up to the wind speeds from an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado. Those wind speeds can take a house completely down to its foundation. In this instance, the only safe place to be is a) underground, or b) away from the storms path.
So to your question: is a car a safe place to be. Overall? No. A tornado can EASILY throw that car and demolish it (as seen over, and over from Moore, Oklahoma). The only way I would use a car is to drive AWAY from a storm. Quickly.
If you were to do that - and your surroundings showed you that despite your efforts you were trapped by a tornado - the safest place to be is OUT of the car, and in a depression (or ditch)....the rude equivalent of being "underground". The goal here is to be below the landline so that flying debris has a lower probability of striking you.
Now, that doesn't mean you should throw yourself into rainfilled ditch full of roaring water. You're really looking for any low place in the earth to duck and cover.
Once again, any storm situation demands that we stay aware of our surroundings and have a plan in place. With the wealth of ways we have available to us these days, its easier than ever to know whats going on: tv coverage, radio coverage, text alerts, Twitter feeds, Facebook warnings, weather radios, etc.
Know where the storms are, what their status is, and what your options are to stay safe.