Last week we looked at driving in adverse weather, that most have encountered at one time or another. Today we will discuss the chance encounter of coming face to face with a real severe weather event, a tornado. (Link to last week’s part 1: http://blog.rv.net/2009/11/rv-driving-in-adverse-weather-conditions-part-1-of-2/ )
Tornados, as we know them today, are one of the most violent short term weather events out there. With wind speeds as high as 300 MPH or more, there is no doubt of their possible affect to anything in their way. One of the real issues is the lack of warning prior to it striking. The weather services do however issue warnings of “the possibility of tornado development”. But, these announcements seem so common across the country during the summertime that they seem to lose their punch.
So, what are some of the possible tell-tale signs of an approaching tornado? The following events have been seen prior to a tornado.
- An unusual threatening green color in the sky.
- Clouds moving at a greater than normal speed in a rotating or converging pattern.
- If it hails during a period of tornado warnings, there is a strong chance of a tornado immediately after. If no warnings are posted there will probably be no tornado activity.
- A strange quiet occurring shortly after the passing of a thunderstorm.
- Observation of a funnel like image. This could be a cloud structure or just debris spinning in clear air.
- The sound of rushing air or large waterfall. As it approaches, the sound turns to a roar with a tone similar to a combination of a train and a jet aircraft.
I experienced one tornado in Georgia some years ago. The slickly greenish sky was visible for some time prior, I would say for 20 minutes or so. That period of time, however, would vary depending on the speed the twister is actually making toward you. A visual sighting is, however, not always possible as the tornado may be somewhat imbedded in the approaching weather or the geographic characteristics of the area may obscure the view. If, however, you see the funnel, and it appears to stay in the same relative position, it may be headed directly for you. You should not try to out run it in the opposite direction. They can move very quickly, anywhere from a stand still to in excess of 60 MPH.
In North America, tornados generally move from the southwest to the northeast. This is not always the case. They do, on occasion veer east, southeast or back north and even northwest. With this in mind, if it seems to be heading directly towards you from a western direction, driving about 90 degrees left of the approaching twister would probably be your best course. Basically keeping the funnel straight off the right side of your vehicle. That is, if a suitable road going that way was available. If inevitably, you can not get out of its way, exit the vehicle and move a good distance from it. Seek shelter in a building if possible, or if not available find an area lower than that of the roadway such as a ditch. Lie in the recession, away from any trees, and cover your head with your hands.
But, what if you are caught in your RV or tow vehicle, with no time to exit and no place to go? Make sure everyone has their seatbelt on. Duck as low as you can below the dash level. If you are in an A class motor home, and you have an adequate number of seatbelts in the sofa located further back, go there. This will reduce your exposure to all the glass upfront and possibly flying debris. With a seatbelt fastened, bend as low as you can below the window level. Be sure everyone with you knows where the emergency escape exits are located and how to operate them.
There is no guaranteed answer to assure safety if caught in such a violet weather event. We can only do our best and hope for the best. Prevention is probably the number one tip when it comes to any violet weather event. Always check the expected weather conditions along the day’s route. Monitor a local radio station should the sky’s look threatening in any way. Consider getting a weather alert dedicated radio. Stay very alert to changing conditions, such as an increase in wind speed, a rapid wind direction shift, cloud texture and color, unusual cloud shapes and any other tell-tale signs.
So, have you ever been caught in a tornado or like storm? If you have, let’s hear about it.
With an Eye on The Weather – Lug_Nut – Peter Mercer