We understand that driving can be therapeutic, especially when the situation around you is stressful. A tornado watch can cause discomfort and feelings of panic and hopelessness. You may also want to drive to collect items from the store. So, is it safe to drive during a tornado watch?

The answer is a partial yes. A tornado watch does not mean that a tornado is occurring; it is merely a chance of one happening. You can drive around. However, it is advised to stay tuned to the news and keep an eye out for the tornado watch turning into a tornado warning. 

This article has differentiated between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. Moreover, we have offered the best advice for navigating a situation where driving is necessary, and a tornado watch alert has been sent out. 

What Is A Tornado Watch?

A Tornado Watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms, which could produce tornadoes. It is important to be aware of the weather conditions in your area and be ready to take action if a Tornado Warning is issued. 

A watch indicates that the situation is being monitored closely and a likelihood of a tornado is being observed. Authorities advise people to plan for a tornado and take necessary precautions. 

What Is A Tornado Warning?

A tornado warning is an alert issued by the National Weather Service to inform the public that a tornado has been spotted in the area or that the radar indicates a tornado is likely. It is a very serious warning and typically requires people in the affected area to take immediate action to seek shelter. 

Authorities begin to take action on the ground during a tornado warning and expect people to cooperate and follow instructions. A tornado warning is nothing to be ignored but needs to be addressed promptly. 

Should You Drive During A Tornado Watch?

To answer this very intriguing question, you can drive during a tornado watch. However, you must have a solid reason to justify this. A tornado watch can very quickly escalate into a warning; hence, it is advised to stay indoors during a tornado watch. 

Understandably, people may need to drive to either evacuate the area or go to stores to buy essentials they can keep when the tornado hits and seek shelter in their chosen places. 

Safest Place In A Tornado Watch

The safest place in a tornado watch is an interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building, such as a tornado shelter or storm cellar. It is important to stay away from windows and exterior walls and to avoid going outside. 

Should You Drive During A Tornado Warning?

Now let us see if you can drive during a tornado warning. The answer is that you should not be taking such a risk. A tornado warning may bring unfavorable conditions that make driving difficult and dangerous. 

Spells of rain or thunderstorms may occur, putting the lives of your loved ones and yourself at risk. Hence, driving during a tornado warning is strictly unadvised. 

What To Do When A Tornado Watch Is Issued?

When you know that a tornado is close, here are some measures you can take. 

  • Know the signs of an approaching tornado: dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a roar similar to a freight train; and a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud.
  • Identify a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Remove any debris or items outside that could become airborne in high winds.
  • Close all windows, doors, and shutters.
  • Gather emergency supplies in your safe room, such as a flashlight, extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, a first aid kit, and blankets.
  • Unplug all appliances and turn off the lights.

Watch this Youtube video for more help:

How can you prepare for a tornado?.

What To Do When A Tornado Warning Is Issued?

Below are some precautions you can take when a tornado hits. 

  • Move to an interior room on the lowest level of your home, and stay away from windows.
  • If possible, get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
  • Wear a helmet or other protective headgear to protect against flying debris.
  • Do not try to outrun the tornado if you are in a car. Instead, leave the car and find a sturdy shelter.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe structure, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Stay informed of weather conditions and be prepared to take shelter if a warning is issued.
  • Lie face down on the floor with your hands over your head and neck for protection.
  • Stay away from windows and stay in your safe room until the storm has passed.

Tornado Categories

When tornado watch alerts are spread out, it is often indicated which category the tornado belongs to. You need to understand all the categories. By doing so, you can better assess if driving during a tornado watch is a good idea or not. 

However, tornadoes can escalate and move from one category to the next, depending on how much the environment favors them. 

Below we have discussed all the categories of tornadoes. 

F0 – F0 is the weakest tornado category on the Enhanced Fujita Scale and has estimated wind speeds of 65-85 mph. These tornadoes cause very light and negligible damage to the area that they hit. 

F1 – F1 is the lowest category on the Fujita scale, which measures the intensity of a tornado. F1 tornadoes have winds of 73–112 mph (117–180 km/h). The damage caused by these is moderate. 

F2 – An F2 tornado is rated moderate, with estimated wind speeds of 113–157 mph (182–253 km/h). F2 tornadoes cause considerable damage to properties and trees. 

F3 – An F3 tornado is rated as a harsh tornado, with estimated wind speeds of 158–206 mph (254–332 km/h). F3 tornadoes cause severe damage to properties and the area where they hit.

F4 – An F4 tornado is rated as a severe tornado, with estimated wind speeds of 207-260 mph (333-418 km/h). F4 tornadoes cause devastating damage to properties and trees. 

F5 – An F5 tornado is rated as devastating, with estimated wind speeds of 261-318 mph (419-512 km/h). F5 tornadoes cause incredible damage to properties and trees. 

Final Thoughts

Tornadoes are natural calamities that can be dealt with. Please do not make risky decisions like driving in a storm or trying to outrun it. Instead, take all the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe.