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For those of us who are long-time residents of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, we know that warmer temperatures in spring can bring extreme weather, including thunderstorms and tornadoes. Just in the last couple of weeks, major storm systems have moved across this region, producing numerous deadly and tragic tornadoes across the country.

Most of us know that in severe weather, we should seek shelter indoors, ideally in basements and storm cellars. But what happens if you’re on the road when bad weather sets in? The most important safe-driving practice in stormy weather is to simply avoid driving and take shelter to wait out the storm. Of course, sometimes that isn’t a viable possibility, and in the event that you have to be on the road, there are some important travel safety tips to keep in mind for driving in a thunderstorm or even a tornado.

  • Keep your vehicle well-maintained, particularly checking windshield wipers and tires, to ensure that your vehicle can handle severe weather.
  • Tune the radio into a weather channel to keep informed about approaching storms and safe driving routes.
  • Take extra precautions as the driving conditions become more dangerous; most importantly turn on your headlights to increase your own visibility and slow down to increase the time you have to react to other traffic.
  • If driving conditions deteriorate to the extent that you need to stop driving, do so. Pull safely to the shoulder of the road, away from any trees that might fall on the vehicle. Stay in the car, and turn on the hazard lights to wait out the storm.
  • An automobile provides better insulation against lightening than being out in the open; avoid contact with metal conducting surfaces both inside and outside the vehicle.
  • Always avoid flooded roadways.
  • Always avoid downed power lines.
  • If you see a tornado or hear a tornado warning, do NOT try to outrun it. Tornadoes can change direction very quickly and unpredictably and can easily lift vehicles into the air.
  • In the event of a tornado, exit your vehicle and seek shelter in a nearby building. If there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area, away from the vehicle. Be cautious about potential flooding.

As accustomed as we might be to severe and extreme weather patterns in the Midwest, strong thunderstorms and tornadoes over the last couple of weeks are a good reminder that we should always take seriously warnings about dangerous weather. This spring and summer, keep your loved ones safe by following some basic precautionary measures.

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