E-Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology

E-Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology, Vol 5, No 4 (2010)

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Tornadoes Impacting Interstates: Service and Societal Considerations

Scott F Blair, Elizabeth P K Lunde


Motorists traveling on Interstate highways are likely to have an increased vulnerability to weather hazards due to their unfamiliarity with nearby towns, limited methods to receive short-term weather information, and a general deficiency of a suitable shelter. To assess the threat, a database of 678 tornadoes, crossing primary and auxiliary Interstates across portions of the central and southeastern contiguous United States, was compiled for the period of 1990 to 2008. Approximately 17% of Interstate-crossing tornadoes impacted vehicles.  Factors such as time of the day, EF-Scale rating, and travel density were examined to assess potential association with the probability of a tornado impact. This paper discusses current warning and preparedness activities in the operational meteorological community and state transportation departments, and recommends future actions and new technology to mitigate the loss of life and property from tornadoes that cross Interstate highways.

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