SIOUX Falls, SD – April 12, 2022 – It’s inclement weather season. As many people in this part of the country know, severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes can strike quickly and violently. Dangerous and damaging storms can catch motorists on the roads, so AAA South Dakota urges drivers and their passengers to be prepared and take proper safety precautions if they encounter extreme weather conditions while traveling in a vehicle. .
“Storms are common throughout the spring and summer, so there’s a good chance drivers will face storm-related challenges in their vehicle,” said Shawn Steward, spokesperson for the AAA in South Dakota. “A vehicle can either be very dangerous or a safe place, depending on the weather conditions. The key is to be prepared for the weather and to react in the right way to what Mother Nature throws at you.
Heavy rains and floods
Heavy showers make visibility difficult while driving. AAA South Dakota recommends changing wiper blades regularly to keep drivers’ views as clear as possible. If visibility is severely limited in heavy rain, drivers should reduce speed and if it is safe to do so, pull off the road out of the traffic lanes, turn on flashing hazard warning lights and wait for the rain to clear. clarify.
Drivers should be reminded that it is South Dakota law to use headlights whenever inclement weather or darkness limits visibility. Headlights can help divers see better but also allow their vehicle to be seen by other drivers.
Water accumulation on the roads can cause hydroplaning and loss of vehicle control. Motorists should therefore reduce their speed when it rains. Roads completely covered in water pose a particular hazard.
“Avoid driving through flood waters,” the AAA Kansas steward warned. “Floods cause more deaths than any other storm-related event, and many of those deaths occur in vehicles. As little as 12 inches of moving water can sweep most vehicles off the road. The slogan “Turn around, don’t drown” is important to remember and follow.
Hailstorms strike with little warning and usually only last about five minutes, but hailstones – frozen rain pellets – can cause significant damage in that short time.
There were nearly 3,800 major hailstorms in the United States in 2021, with 218 – fourth highest number in the country – occurring in South Dakota, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most hailstones are about the size of a pea or a marble, but they can grow to the size of a softball in a severe storm.
“Hail of most sizes can dent your car, and larger rocks can break your windows,” said Gary Tomes, insurance manager for AAA South Dakota. “And that’s not an uncommon occurrence in South Dakota. Fortunately, hail damage to a vehicle is covered under your comprehensive auto insurance policy, which covers physical damage to your vehicle not caused by a collision.
To protect your car from hailstorms, park your car in a covered area whenever possible.
If you’re in your car when a hailstorm hits and you see a safe place nearby, such as a freeway overpass, gas station, or bank awning, drive there as soon as you can. If no shelter is available and the hail becomes large enough to cause damage, stop driving and pull off the road completely. Stay away from car windows and cover your head with your arms and hands to protect yourself from broken glass.
If caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, seek shelter in a hardtop vehicle or in a low area, such as a tunnel. If you are already in your car at the start of a thunderstorm, stay in the vehicle for shelter, but avoid fences, lone trees, telephone poles, power lines and pipelines.
Lightning damage to a vehicle is usually covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy, said Tomes of AAA South Dakota Insurance.
Thunderstorms can sometimes have other impacts on vehicles, including:
- Damage caused by falling trees due to high winds. This type of damage is usually covered by standard car insurance policies. However, if the tree was known to be weak before the storm, the damage may not be covered.
- A forest fire resulting from a thunderstorm can damage cars. Forest fire insurance coverage, even if caused by lightning, is included in the comprehensive coverage of an auto insurance policy.
NOAA reports that the United States is the most tornado-prone country in the world, with approximately 1,000 tornadoes touching down each year. There were 1,377 documented tornadoes in the United States – 19 in South Dakota – in 2021.
Tornado warnings mean danger is imminent. If a tornado is seen, move to the safest location possible.
“If you are in your car and a tornado is near, abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in a storm shelter or a sturdy structure,” the South Dakota AAA Steward said. “As a last resort, if there is no structure nearby, take shelter in your vehicle – seatbelt fastened; duck under the windows; cover yourself with a blanket to protect you from glass/debris; and protect your head with your arms.
Also, when taking shelter from a tornado, stay clear of trees, signs, or cars/machinery and avoid seeking shelter where they could fall or blow on you. Most tornadoes move southwest to northeast, so take that into account when taking shelter.
Finally, never seek shelter from a tornado under an overpass or bridge, as tornado winds can be strengthened and create a wind tunnel effect, putting you at risk of being swept away or killed or injured by flying debris.
AAA recommends motorists create a spring/summer severe weather emergency kit to take in their car. The kit should include items such as non-perishable food/snacks and water, tool kit, flashlight, wind-up or battery-operated radio, extra batteries, cell phone and charger, first aid supplies, flares or reflectors, a raincoat or poncho, a towel or blanket and rain boots or an extra pair of shoes.
-press release reported and written by AAA South Dakota