Staying safe during a tornado: A WTOL 11 Special Report - | WBTV Charlotte

Staying safe during a tornado: A WTOL 11 Special Report

Storm in Cloverdale, OH (Source: Melissa Schultz) Storm in Cloverdale, OH (Source: Melissa Schultz)
Debris (Source: Mike James) Debris (Source: Mike James)
Customers and employees take cover at Meijer (Source: Viewer Photo) Customers and employees take cover at Meijer (Source: Viewer Photo)
(Toledo News Now) -

We've heard incredible stories of survival this week about local residents whose homes were directly hit in Sunday's tornados, but what if you're in a public place or in your car when a tornado strikes?

Three of the most common places to be are in a store, sports stadium or car, but do you know what to do if a storm is coming toward you in one of these places?

"I never thought that I would be in a tornado. I never thought about what I would do," said Bianca Guerra.

But when the time came on Sunday, Guerra ran into a Meijer store in Oregon.

"I noticed that the lights in the parking lot went out and so when I noticed that, the windows started shaking and I turned around and ran," she said.

Guerra ran to a stock room with other customers and employees. Wood County Emergency Management Director Brad Gilbert says Guerra did the right thing. Gilbert says to always stay away from doors and windows during a tornado, and avoid the center – the roof could cave in. Go to the back or side of the store.

"A lot of times the warehouse part of the store, where they store all the merchandise before they bring it out, again is a smaller area than the big retail area roof," Gilbert said. "You're going to get more support underneath those roofs back by these locations."

"Always get to the back," Guerra added. "Get as far away from the storm as you can."

What if you're stuck at a sports stadium? Gilbert says you should take cover immediately.

"Obviously you're out in the open, you're exposed to the elements," he said. "Really the key is getting ahead of the game. Again, that will help reduce the panic."

The biggest threat is not that a tornado will sweep you up, but that debris could strike you. Get to the concourse or a bathroom or office where there is concrete to protect you.

This is also the case for a thunderstorm. Gilbert says more people are injured by lightning than anything else in a storm.

Many people are afraid of being stuck in their car during a storm. It happened to Tim Apple when a tornado struck on Quarry Road near North Baltimore.

"All of a sudden, a wall of water, and the next thing you know, shrapnel is flying around my car," Apple said.

Gilbert says if there is no building to escape into, pull off the road.

"Stay in your car, put your seat all the way back so you're laying as flat as possible, make sure your seatbelt stays on to keep you strapped in the car," he said.

Many of us have been told to get out of the car and take cover in a ditch if a tornado is coming, but it turns out that's not the best thing to do.

"The ditch could be full of water, debris could still get at you in a more shallow ditch," Gilbert explained. "It would probably be safer to stay in your vehicle."

He says there's one common theme for staying safe in all three places: look at your surroundings and know your options before a storm hits.

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