A viral video of a person driving a pickup truck through a tornado in Texas on Monday prompted two Wyoming officials to issue a warning for anyone thinking of trying the same thing.
Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day and Dave King, emergency management coordinator for Campbell County, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that it is incredibly dangerous to drive through tornadoes.
“If the car gets picked up, then you’re inside of a tin can being thrown around,” King said. “The impact when it comes down is not going to be good for the contents inside. Let alone if you don’t stay inside.”
King said instead of continuing to drive in the tornado’s path, people should stop, get out of the car and try to get as low as possible, even laying in a ditch if possible, to protect themselves.
“The most deadly part about a tornado is not the wind, it’s the flying debris,” Day said. “A shingle off of a roof moving at 120 MPH will go right through you life a knife. You don’t want to get a false sense of security that your nice, cushy, air conditioned car that weighs several thousand pounds will stay on the road in this situation.”
The driver who was caught in the tornado on Monday, not only survived but was able to drive away after the twister flipped the truck on its side and flung it 360 degrees before flipping it back on its wheels.
“I CANNOT believe they drove away like that,” stormchaser Brian Emfinger wrote in a tweet along with the video.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported the driver suffered only a cut on his arm.
Day could not say for sure how frequently tornadoes occur in Wyoming every year, because there are likely many that occur in rural areas where no one sees them. The weatherman compared the situation to a tree falling in a forest and no one being around.
The eastern border counties in Wyoming, such as Laramie, Goshen and Campbell counties, are the most likely to be hit by tornadoes every year, but Day added they are possible in every county in the state.
Tornado season in Wyoming typically begins around late April and can stretch into early September, but they occur most commonly in June and July.
However, most of the tornadoes that touch down in Wyoming range in the EF0 (65 to 85 mph) to EF2 (111 to 135 mph) range, meaning they are relatively weak.
Day and King believe that a 2005 tornado in Wright was the last deadly twister in the state, with two people being killed in the storm. It was measured at an EF3 scale, which means it had estimated wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph.
A tornado in Cheyenne in 1979 was also one of the few deadly ones seen in the state, with one person killed and 40 people injured during the incident. That was the most destructive tornado the state has ever seen, with around 200 homes being destroyed.
Day added that strong tornadoes can pick up anything, including cows, as accurately depicted in the 1990s blockbuster film, “Twister.”
Editor’s note: The original version of this story did not include the “don’t” in Dave King’s quote. It has since been updated.