Guest Author - Christine Wilcox
A couple of months ago, I had planned a solo travel trip precisely, down to the dive drive through I would stop at on my way to my first appointment upon landing. I had no desire to be the one smashed in their chair trying to hide a growling stomach during the meeting I had to attend soon after touching down. So I'm happily snacking on my driving-friendly meal, my wiper blades clicking on and off in a fruitless attempt to combat the rainfall, when the rain got just a little harder and the sky a lot more ominous looking than I'd liked.
What happened next is something that can send a chill through any solo traveler who is relying on Garmin to get from point A to point B: a tornado watch was announced across the radio waves. (By the way - important safety tip - even if you don't want to listen to the radio in the rental car, it's a really good idea to do so, especially in rough weather, to ensure that you're not driving into danger).
In the 10 seconds that I pondered the information that was coming at me over the radio, I realized the following factors: I had no clue exactly where I was in the county they were giving the warning for, or even if I was actually IN that county; I had only mapped directions from my meeting to the hotel, so I didn't have the hotel destination plugged into the GPS unit yet; and, lastly, if I were driving into a tornado, I had precious little time to get out of my car and into a building.
If you haven't brushed up on your "driving in tornado weather" scenario, here's the most critical tip you need to know: don't drive in a tornado. The second most critical tip is find shelter immediately. Do not look around and say "I don't see a tornado, I'll just keep going." Tornadoes are wildly unpredictable. Pull over, program the GPS to find the closest shopping center or some other large building and go there. Get out of your car, and get inside. If you're not in a town or near any buildings and are in the area of the tornado, pull your car over to an area that you can get away from, and find a low lying ditch somewhere to lie in until the storm passes, but be away from your car. You do not want to be in a car during a tornado. Do not take your chances with that kind of force of nature. Whoever is going to meet you next will understand the grass stains.
Bad weather is expected, but devastating weather events cannot be planned for; the best your can do is be prepared.