A Daily Vulnerability in America: Tornadoes on our Highways (188)

Craig Croskery, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi



Tornadoes are always dangerous, but if you are driving a motor vehicle they are especially problematic due to their smaller size and structure. Tornado fatalities in motor vehicles have not decreased in recent years despite overall downward trends in total tornado fatalities. Receiving tornado warnings is difficult inside a motor vehicle due to limited sources available, particularly when alone in the vehicle. Controlled access highways are also difficult places to take shelter as access is limited to interchanges and intermittent rest areas, while buildings at interchanges may not be able to withstand an intense tornado.

A multi-faceted solution is recommended as the tornado warning needs to reach the motorists, while they need to be able to respond to the warning. Electronic signs and flashing lights, along with audible messages on mobile communications devices, are the most suitable technologies for reaching motorists which are currently available. At each interchange, shelters capable of withstanding an EF-5 tornado should be constructed or retrofitted, allowing motorists - and any nearby residents who may desire such - a safe place at any location on that highway corridor. It will be a long work in process as the cost is high and each location has different needs, but it will go a long way towards the goal of a Weather-Ready Nation.