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Stay safe when driving through severe weather

September 5, 2012
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Imagine driving along an unfamiliar rural interstate. The sun is shining one minute and the next the sky turns ominously dark. A storm is coming, and from the looks of things it could be a bad one. What should be done to do to stay safe? The American Red Cross has steps to follow to remain safe when running into a storm while traveling.

Monster storms have been tearing across the country recently with strong winds and heavy rain, sometimes popping up unexpectedly as people drive to their destination.

If planning to travel by vehicle, first check the weather forecast for the entire route, getting prepared for what may be in store. Travel and weather web sites can help with avoiding storms and other regional challenges which could impact safety. Other steps to take before departing include:

Shop the Red Cross Store for all your preparedness needs;

Let someone know the destination, route and the expected time of arrival. If the car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along the predetermined route;

Carry a disaster supplies kit in the trunk;

Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications and important documents or information which may be needed; and

Find out what disasters may occur in the place where traveling, especially if they are disasters never personally experienced before. Find out how to get information in the event of a disaster such as local radio systems or emergency alert systems;

When getting ready to depart, fill the vehicle's gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help with visibility. Don't let the gas tank get too low during the trip. Use seat belts and give full attention to the road and avoid distractions such as cell phones. Don't follow other vehicles too closely and use caution in work zones.

Many states now use flashing signs along the highways to warn drivers about severe weather threats. If passing one of these signs, or the sky turns dark and threatening, tune into a local radio station to listen to local weather forecasts. If caught in a storm while driving, turn the headlights on and try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. If thunder and lightning is occurring, avoid touching metal or other surfaces which conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

Tornadoes are more common in the plains states, but have been reported in every state. If flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park. The following options are a last resort:

Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Keep heads down below the windows, covering heads with hands and a blanket if possible;

If it is possible to safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit the car and lie in that area, covering the head with hands; and

The choice should be driven by the specific circumstances.



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