Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Traffic Cams Demonstrate Extreme Dangers Of Nighttime Tornadoes

Power flashes caused by the tornado breaking
utility lines gave one of the few clues to motorists
that a dangerous tornado was trashing Garland and
Rowlett, Texas last month.
Photo from Severe Studios
Most of the people who died in that terrible late December tornado in Garland and Rowlett Texas were in vehicles on highways.

You can understand why. With nighttime tornadoes, if you're in your house, you're more likely to hear tornado warnings, hear the roar of the approaching storm, and have a basement, closet or interior bathroom in which to take shelter.

If you're on the highway, you might not have a weather radio on, or you're not tuned to a radio station broadcasting warnings. You can't see where the tornado is, it's so dark. Plus, a car is probably one of the least safe places to be in a tornado.

The Dallas Morning News compiled a series of traffic cam videos that shows the tornado on and near the spaghetti tangle of freeways in and near Garland.  The video is at the bottom of this post.

The videos indicate that even somebody with a trained eye would have difficulty determining if there was a tornado and if so, it where it was and where it was headed. You can get glimpses of it in lightning strikes and the power flashes created by the tornado maurading through power lines.

But still, in the moment, you might not actually know for sure what you're seeing.

A nighttime tornado might be nearby and the only way you know whether you're in danger while you're on the freeway is when it's too late. When the wind starts rocking the car or debris starts raining down on you.

In the case of the Garland/Rowlett tornado, officials wanted to close down the freeways where the tornado was headed, but it was too late to do anything by the time the twister formed. People blinded drove right into it.

Five people died when the tornado crossed Interstate 30 near the intersection with the President George Bush Turnpike. Some of the cars were swept over the side of overpasses.

The traffic cam compilation from the Dallas Morning News shows a lot of the danger.  Imagine the terror of one motorist who stops beneath an overpass when the debris starts raining down. (Looks like they escaped OK.)

The lesson here: If you know severe weather is looming, especially at night, it's best to postpone travel if at all possible. If you stay home the the tornado approaches, you can listen for warnings and then dive into the basement if necessary.

The life you save might be your own.

Here's the video.:

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