Throughout the Midwestern U.S., tornado season poses a serious threat to homeowners, businesses, and people just passing through — including truckers. In some states, peak season has already passed, but especially in the Upper Midwest, it's only beginning, and won't end until late July or so.
With that in mind, truckers should remember that while peak season may be over in some parts of the country, tornado risk won't be at a truly low level until summer is over. The following tips will help keep you safe on the road in the weeks ahead:
1) Listen for tornado watches and tornado warnings
First and foremost, when you are traveling through areas where tornadoes are more likely to occur, you should be aware that alert systems are available to help keep you safe, according to Truckers News. If you hear about a tornado "watch," that means conditions are ripe for a funnel cloud to form, but there is no direct risk to you and you should keep an eye out for conditions to worsen — and as such, you should prepare to take action to keep yourself safe. However, if you get a tornado "warning," danger may be imminent and you should seek shelter immediately.
2) Be on the lookout for visual signs of a twister
Of course, you may be one of the unfortunate few who are in the immediate vicinity of a tornado forming, and at that point, warnings won't do you much good, Truckers News said. But there's good news here: There are visual indicators that a threatening weather pattern could turn into a twister, including the sky turning dark, heavy rain or hail, repeated lightning flashes in a cloud bank and even an eerie stillness after these conditions die down.
3) Know what to do when you encounter one
When you find yourself in a situation where a tornado threat is imminent, you have to react quickly and confidently, according to Schneider. That includes finding a sturdy structure and going indoors, getting underground or at least below ground level (such as in a roadside ditch) if possible or — in a worst-case scenario —parking your truck and staying put. You should also remember that tornadoes' paths are erratic and trying to drive away from the funnel is not advisable in most situations. It's better to play it safe and find shelter anywhere you can.
4) Avoid overpasses
Finally, remember that it's a common misconception — one reinforced by inaccurate Hollywood depictions of such storms — that parking under an overpass is safe during a tornado, according to PAM Transport. In fact, the opposite is true: It can be extremely dangerous to park under an overpass during a tornado because these structures create a wind tunnel with even more powerful winds, and that can mean debris gets thrown around under an overpass with even greater ferocity. As such, you should avoid these perceived shelters at all costs.
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