Highway Overpasses No Shelter From Storms

By Kristi Nelson
|  Wednesday, May 25, 2011  |  Updated 6:25 PM CDT
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People inclined to avoid hail damage to their cars by parking under highway overpasses shouldn't.

Kristi Nelson, NBCDFW.com

People inclined to avoid hail damage to their cars by parking under highway overpasses shouldn't.

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During serious storms, it's not unusual for drivers to seek shelters beneath highway overpasses, or even get out of their cars to take cover on the concrete slopes.

But the area beneath an overpass is one of the most dangerous places you can be during a storm -- especially a tornado.

Many people think a highway overpass provides safety from a tornado -- after all, it's concrete and looks and feels sturdy.

But Trooper Lonny Haschel of the Texas Department of Public Safety said seeking shelter under an overpass puts people at greater risk of being killed or seriously injured.

"If you stop underneath an overpass, No. 1, flying debris, inane things that you wouldn't think about -- pop cans, bottles, chunks of tires, shingles -- 100 mph wind is going to pick those things up," he said.

And drivers who stop their cars on the road trap the drivers behind them, including emergency vehicles rushing to help storm victims.

In the case of tornadoes, an underpass can turn into a wind tunnel.

"So, that wind velocity may actually be higher underneath that overpass because it's concentrated into a funnel," Haschel said.

His advises highway drivers to take the next exit and seek shelter if they feel a severe storm is imminent instead of stopping on the highway.

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