Why You Should Always Avoid Underpasses During Tornadoes

Why Not to Seek Shelter Under Overpasses During Tornados in OklahomaMany people mistakenly think that a highway overpass provides a safe haven from a tornado. The reality is that an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado. Using an overpass for your shelter can put you at a much greater risk of being killed or seriously injured by a tornado.

Tornado wind speeds can sometimes exceed 200 mph. These destructive winds produce airborne debris that are blown into and channeled under the overpass where people might be seeking shelter. Varying debris, including dirt, sand and rocks that are moving at incredible speeds can easily penetrate clothing and skin, causing serious injuries or even death. 

Let’s take a look at the facts:

  • If an overpass is directly in the path of a tornado, the wind could change direction by nearly 180 degrees as the vortex passes.
  • By climbing up higher to get under the overpass, you will be exposed to higher wind speeds and more flying debris.
  • Flying debris become dangerous missiles in the tornado airflow.
  • Most overpasses don’t have girders or support beams for handholds.
  • The narrow passage underneath an overpass could cause an increase in the wind speed under the bridge.

Where You Should Shelter Instead

If you are on the road, try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If that is not an option, pull over and park. You now have two choices:

  1. Stay in your car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  2. If you can get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

The bottom line is: OVERPASSES DO NOT MAKE SAFE SHELTER AREAS! Check out the video below to see what happens when you shelter under an overpass:

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