Seeking shelter under highway overpass could be a deadly mistake

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It may seem like a good idea when facing severe weather, but taking shelter under an overpass could be your biggest mistake.

“You know, the problem with an overpass is the winds actually accelerate underneath that,” said Aaron Brackett, with the 4 Warn Storm Team. “So even if you have a wind in a weaker tornado of 100, 150 miles per hour, you can add 40, 50, 60 miles per hour to that just from being underneath the underpass. So, it`s actually making the tornado you're in worse.”

Brackett says it’s all too common.

“A lot of times, what will happen is people will see a big thunderstorm coming and they'll want to go under an underpass for shelter, maybe from the hail or to get out of the rain, they'll pull off to the side,” said Brackett. “Well, all it takes is a couple more vehicles doing the same exact thing and all of the sudden, you have a road block. So, take a four-lane road like this, quickly it can become a parking lot and everyone is at risk.”

People in Oklahoma have been killed by tornadoes while seeking shelter beneath an overpass. Some of those deaths happened during the May 3, 1999 tornado outbreak.

AAA says being in a vehicle is the worst possible place to be caught during severe weather.

“Stay in your home, stay in your work,” said Leslie Gamble, with AAA. “With your children, let their children stay at daycare and take those precautions. It`s not the time to group up and find everyone and get them together.”

And if you are caught outside and a tornado is quickly approaching, she says there is a last resort.

“In the worst case scenario, get face down in a ditch or a low ravine.”

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