Tornados are some of the more dangerous natural disasters in the world. They’re fast, develop rapidly, and leave a wake of damage that doesn’t always equate to your perception of their size. So if you’re on the road and get caught in a severe storm, you should always have the possibility of a tornado in your mind, especially if you’re driving in an area with a tornado alert. You’ll likely have heightened senses, so it’s good to have a set of “do’s and don’t’s” ready to go. We’ll break down how to approach a tornado alert as a truck driver.

Understand the Difference Between Tornado Watches and Warnings

We’ll first discuss a few tornado terminologies. Tornado alerts usually fall under the category of watches and warnings. Tornado watches mean conditions are favorable for tornados to develop, and you should be alert for any dangerous situations. Warnings mean one has been sighted on a weather radar, and drivers should be on their highest alert for any signs of trouble. One thing that is true of most tornados is that they develop quickly and can touch down right near you. So be aware of when a thunderstorm turns into a tornado watch and when a watch turns into a confirmed sighting.

Know the Signs of a Developing Tornado

So what are the typical signs of a tornado? Ensure you’re paying attention to the sky and know what you should look for. Developing tornados often come with similar signs, including:

  • Strong and persistent cloud rotations.
  • Whirling dust and debris under a funnel. Some tornados don’t have visible funnels.
  • Loud and continuous rumbles of wind that don’t fade. This can help more so at night when visibility is limited.
  • Bright, blue-green, or white flashes near the ground indicate snapped power lines from the tornado’s destruction path. Also very helpful for nighttime drivers.
  • Hail and heavy rain followed by an intense wind shift.

Find Shelter in a Sturdy Building

Shelter is vital during any tornado, but you don’t want to evacuate your truck for an unstable building. Many motorists have found that locations like truck stops, convenience stores, restaurants, and walk-in coolers tend to provide enough shelter during most tornados. If you can find one of these locations, try to head inside and avoid windows and doors.

Find a Ditch

If you can’t find shelter in a safe, sturdy building, a ditch might work as another safe location. Head for that spot and get as low as possible and away from your truck. Tornados can lift semi-trucks, so keep your vehicle far away. Additionally, make sure to cover your face with your arms and bring something like a blanket or coat to cover the rest of your body. Also, take note of the surrounding area of the ditch. Is it filling with water? Are there power lines in the immediate vicinity? This can help you decide on the safest route to take.

What NOT to Do in a Tornado?

It’s also important to know what NOT to do during a tornado. Tornados can catch you at any point; the last thing you want to do is be unprepared for the situation. Here’s what to avoid during a tornado.

Avoid Overpasses or Tunnels

Overpasses and tunnels may seem risk-free, but they’re far from it. The shape of overpasses or tunnels can create a heightened wind effect, leading to tons of flying debris and wind speeds higher than the tornado itself. You may even be sucked out of the overpass by the tornado winds’ strength. 

Don’t Continue Driving Toward the Tornado

If you see a tornado ahead of you, don’t keep driving! Some drivers think that a tornado going in an opposite direction will continue traveling in that direction, but one thing that’s certain about tornados is uncertainty. A tornado moving due east can quickly change direction and head right for your truck, turning a hopeful situation into a helpless one. Don’t try to outrun a tornado, but try your best to drive away from it.

Worst Case Scenario? Stay in Your Truck

Your truck may not be the ideal form of shelter, but it’s better than trying to outrun a tornado on foot. The last thing you want to do is get caught in an open area facing a tornado down. Instead, stay in your driver’s seat and get as low as possible to keep anything from flying into your window and hitting you.

Don’t Let Tornados and Other Natural Disasters Scare You From Driving a Truck — Start Your Career Today

Like any job, trucking driving has its fair share of dangerous situations. But tornados are few and far between and aren’t something you should let get in the way of your career growth. So start your career today with support from TQM Logistics. We offer plenty of\ solutions — such as our trucking compliance solutions — to help truck drivers and companies form long-lasting and fruitful relationships. So start today by filling out a CDL driver application and get one step closer to a desirable career.