Overpasses are NOT shelters

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A very popular video clip has many people seeking shelter from severe weather under highway overpasses. BAD MOVE!

The video clip in question shows a camera crew trying to outrun an oncoming tornado. Then, when it got too close, they ducked under the girders of a nearby overpass, with camera rolling. They emerged with hardly a scratch. The resulting spectacular footage had many believing these bridges were the ultimate storm shelter.

Unfortunately, others who have tried this since have not been so lucky, in fact, some people have died when this practice failed to protect them. As unbelievable as it may sound, there have been reports of people leaving buildings seeking shelter under bridges, when tornadoes approached.

There were several factors that may have caused the original event to give a false sense of security.

  • The tornado was relatively weak.
  • It may not have been a direct hit.
  • The overpass was of a design that provided “extra” shelter in a pocket between girders. Not all bridges are designed this way.
  • They got LUCKY!

Now, weather researchers and others who know the nature of the beast are trying to discourage the use of overpasses as shelter in a tornado. Their recommendation is that a ditch may actually provide better shelter. Some feel that the opening under a bridge may actually serve to increase wind speed and create a suction that may pull victims out.

The bottom line is that it seems the age old recommendations still apply.

  • It’s best to find a sturdy building for shelter.
  • If you don’t have time to find a building for shelter, lie flat in a ditch and cover your head.

Of course, it’s best to think about taking shelter well before you get into this kind of dire situation.