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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/17/2009

NWS, Red Cross Align on Tornado Advice

By Steve Tracton

* Severe T-Storm Watch: Full Forecast | Nats-Cubs Forecast *

Photo courtesy NSSL.

Back in May, we told you that the the American Red Cross (ARC) and National Weather Service (NWS) had agreed to disagree on the recommended action of last resort when confronted by an approaching tornado while in a vehicle. The long-standing advice of both agencies had been to abandon the vehicle and lie flat in a ditch with hands covering your head. In early May, however, the ARC, citing recent research, changed its advice, recommending instead to remain in the vehicle with seat belt fastened and head covered.

At the time, the NWS and ARC issued a joint statement that indicated the NWS was not ready to deviate from its traditional advice to abandon an automobile if faced with a tornado, but that the NWS and ARC would jointly review the relevant tornado safety research.

That review apparently complete, the NWS and ARC have released a new joint statement.

Keep reading to find out what the NWS and ARC now recommend...

In the statement, the NWS and ARC conclude that it doesn't really make much difference whether you remain in or abandon the vehicle. Both are last resorts "... that provide little protection" and "your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances."

In other words, pick your poison.

It's unclear whether this conclusion reflects any new science or just a statement of the obvious. Of course, as the statement points out, "The safest place to be is in an underground shelter, basement or safe room."

At the end of our earlier post on the subject, we asked what you would do if a tornado was bearing down on your car and there wasn't enough time to get to shelter. 70 percent of respondents said they would stay in the car.

By Steve Tracton  | July 17, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Thunderstorms, Tracton  
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Posted by: tomtomlinson | July 17, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I think the best advice would be to stay in your car and drive like hell outta there! I'm pretty sure most cars can outrun a tornado.

Posted by: kulwicki7 | July 17, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

While "drive like hell" will work in some circumstances, it's not going to work in every situation. As a former midwesterner who's been in two tornadoes - one in a car and one in the basement - I can tell you that "drive like hell" works great if you have a long straight road ahead of you, there's no traffic, the tornado is relatively small, etc. etc. On the other hand, if you have one of those EF5, mile-wide monsters bearing down close behind you and you come to a "T" intersection, well let's just say you're going to be faced with "picking your poison." Me, I'm staying in the car and hoping I can reach the bike helmet in the back seat before it's too late - not that it will give me much more than psychological comfort.

Posted by: dwljr | July 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking stay in the car, especially if you're in a built-up area with lots of power lines.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 17, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

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