What to do in case of a hurricane warning when traveling
- Some of the big travel times of the year coincide with the most hurricane-active months.
- Enable emergency alerts on your cell phone to get the most important information anywhere.
- Always know what county you are in and which cities are nearby.
Nothing spoils a vacation like bad weather.
When the weather gets severe, it can be dangerous.
It can happen no matter where you are or when, but it is more likely to happen during April, May and June when hurricanes hit the United States than any other time of the year. Those months also coincide with some big travel weeks, including spring break for some school districts and colleges, Easter Sunday, Easter, Memorial Day weekend, and the beginning of summer.
Travelers, in particular, may be surprised when severe weather hits. Here’s what you need to know to prepare:
Learn about the risks and how to stay informed.
The National Weather Service sends potentially life-saving information via a nationwide emergency text system called Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA. These messages are sent from cell towers to all mobile devices in the vicinity of the emergency, assuming the user has WEA messaging enabled. It doesn’t matter if your site is up or not.
(more: The study finds that more dangerous storms could hit the South in the future)
WEA messages are only sent in the most severe situations, but the weather does not have to be at this level to cause damage and injuries. That’s why it’s always important to pay attention to the local forecast, monitor any storms via TV, radio or the Internet, and know what county you’re in and the names of other nearby cities.
Apps, such as The Weather Channel, can also be set to enable alerts.
In many cases, local government agencies post real-time severe weather information on their social media accounts or websites. Always follow their instructions.
A good thing to pack on any trip: a flashlight or headlamp in case of a power outage, weather-related or not.
Know where to take shelter.
I am a hotel, vacation rental, or other building, and I mean the basement.
“If a tornado warning has been issued for your travel location, the first step is to get to the lowest level available,” says Kate Parker, digital meteorologist at Weather.com. “Basements are best, but being on the first floor, in the smallest windowless room you can find, is your next best option.”
Place under something sturdy and protect your head and neck.
In 2021, a tornado tore off the roof of a Hampton Inn in Fultondale, Alabama. Recently, hundreds of passengers crowded into an underground corridor at Chicago O’Hare International Airport as severe weather passed.
In public places, pay attention to any announcements made or instructions given by officials. Many of them have official shelter areas. Know that just because a building is large, does not make it storm-resistant.
“Wide roofs like you see in grocery stores or gyms are very vulnerable to tornadoes, and unfortunately a lot of airports have similar designs,” Parker said.
If your vacation accommodation is a mobile home, manufactured home, or recreational vehicle, get out and go somewhere safer when severe weather is forecast.
Know what to do while driving.
The best way to stay safe is to avoid being on the road during the threat of severe weather.
“If you’re on the road when a warning is issued, your safest option is to find a rest stop with a tornado shelter,” Parker says. “Many highways through tornado-prone areas will have signs indicating whether a rest stop is a tornado shelter.”
Instead, stop and find a well-built structure to seek shelter.
“Think brick or mortar, which doesn’t have a large flat roof like a grocery store, and stay away from windows as much as possible,” Parker says.
One common myth: The tunnel is a safe place to take shelter. In fact, the winds can be even more dangerous there due to the tunneling effect of the bridge over the road.
If a tornado is coming and you can’t get to a building, the National Weather Service recommends either getting out in the car and covering your head, or leaving the car and lying down in a low place like a ditch or ravine.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment, and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.