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What to do when car meets tornado

Tuesday - 5/21/2013, 7:06am  ET

AP: 791a0067-f7e7-4229-817d-87eaf1f74109
This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)
  • Gallery: (151 images)

WASHINGTON - With pictures of the tornado devastation near Oklahoma City still coming in, some wonder what they would do if a tornado hit while they were behind the wheel.

The National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va., is responsible for using tornado warnings when inclement weather strikes.The advice for how to react if there's a tornado warning while your driving has been tweaked over the years. So, what should you do?

Meteorologist Ken Widelski says it depends. If the area is only under a warning - stay vigilant and try to be in a situation where sturdy shelter is available. But things change if you see a tornado.

"Never stay inside the vehicle if one is bearing down on you. Abandon the vehicle altogether and get into a ditch and get down as low as possible and cover your head," says Widelski.

Staying in the car puts you in danger of becoming part of the flying debris.

But, climbing into a ditch is a last resort. If you are near a safe building before a tornado arrives, get to it.

This year, the weather service is testing a new format for severe weather warnings in the central United States to better convey specific threats to the public.

"I think there's going to be a lot of changes ... in the way we disseminate the information. It'll be more impact-based," says Widelski.

WTOP's Dave Dildine contributed to this report. Follow @WTOPTraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

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