Often times, while driving at high speeds, you’ll come across some kind of funnel cloud or dust devil in the sky. These are all part of nature, but you may be wondering, “what are they?”
Well, you’re in luck because we’re going to tell you! These are called tornados, and they are a part of nature that you’re likely to see while driving on the open road. In fact, there are several types of tornados that you can encounter while driving.
The Dust Devil
When you’re driving on a freshly paved road with no wind in your face, you may not even notice the dust devil in the sky. However, if you come across a patch of dirt or gravel road that’s long or bumpy, the dust devil will probably be the first thing you see. These are the most common types of tornados and can be found anywhere from the Great Plains to the deserts of Africa. They typically form in very calm conditions, like a day with no wind or just a slight breeze. This is why you may not even notice them while driving on smooth asphalt or concrete.
If a dust devil takes the form of a funnel cloud, it means that it is strong enough to pull down trees and strip brush from alongside the road. The great thing about these types of tornados is that they are easy to avoid. You don’t need to slow down or break any traffic laws because they don’t pose any kind of threat to vehicles. Even better, you can see them coming from a distance because of how fast they move.
The Fissure Vortix
If you’re driving in a place with active seismic activity, such as an earthquake region, you may encounter a different type of tornado. These are called fissure vortixes or “churning” tornados and are named after the strange ripples that appear on the surface of water when a large earthquake strikes. Typically, these ripples last only for a short period of time and only affect surface water such as lakes, ponds, or the ocean. However, if you’re a geologist or just want to know more about quakes, these fissure vortixes are a great way to learn.
These types of tornados can be very destructive. If you’re not prepared for an earthquake, the last thing you want is a fissure vortix. Luckily, due to their relatively short lifespan, they are not often encountered by motor vehicles, so you have nothing to worry about. Just remember: if you’re driving in an earthquake region, keep your eyes open and watch out for signs of life, including damage to buildings, vehicles, and vegetation.
The Funnel Cloud
Often times, while driving, you can spot a white or grayish cloud in the sky. If you look closely, you’ll see that it actually consists of several smaller clouds connected together. These are called funnel clouds because of the shape that they take as they move quickly across the sky. They are often a sign that a thunderstorm is on the way. You should look for these clouds 20 or 30 minutes before you start seeing any signs of rain. This is when the air is still very warm and humid from the previous day’s heat.
If you come across a funnel cloud while driving, there is no need to slow down. Just keep driving and watch out for signs of life, such as buildings collapsed, trees felled, or even dust devils in the distance.
These types of tornados can be very dangerous if they overtake you. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving on a paved road or a dirt path – if a funnel cloud decides to hit you, you’re going to have a bad time. However, seeing as how they only last for a matter of minutes before dissipating, they don’t pose a serious threat to your vehicle. If you come across one while driving, you should be able to take a quick look at the surroundings and predict where the funnel is going to go. It’s not always easy, but you can usually get an idea.
The Straight-Line Tornado
This is the deadliest type of tornado and the one you need to watch out for most. While the others mentioned so far have all appeared on a circular path, straight-line tornados take a more direct course and tend to be a little more persistent. These are the types of tornados responsible for more fatalities than any other. They can form when two other types of tornados – a hook echo and a hook crosswind – meet in the sky. Typically, they form at air pressure levels of 1013 millibars or lower. If you come across a straight-line tornado whirling toward you, there is no need to break any traffic laws. You just need to keep a safe distance and prepare to take cover.
This type of tornado can become very stable and almost seem like it’s on a set course. If you approach one of these phenomena, you’re usually guaranteed to get hit – even if you’re driving on a carefully plotted route. A good rule of thumb is: if you can see several miles, you’re probably not far enough away from one of these things.
Storm Chasing (& Other Interesting Facts)
If you’re really curious about tornados, you may want to consider getting in the habit of keeping an eye on the sky while driving. This may sound scary, but storm chasing is a fantastic hobby that will teach you a lot about nature and the things that come with it. Storm chasers travel to where storms are expected and then wait for the perfect combination of weather conditions to track down and document tornados. Some people who enter this field do it as a hobby and love being in the dangerous vicinity of these natural phenomena. However, if you’re interested in pursuing this career path as a lifestyle, you may need to consider getting a license. Luckily, many states offer emergency storm chasing as a specialty, so if you’re looking to make a living doing this, there will be no shortage of jobs.
Despite the dangers, the excitement of driving in the vicinity of tornados is worth it. It may not seem like it now, but you’ll learn a lot about nature and its workings while doing it. Just remember: when you’re driving on rough terrain or in bad weather conditions, slow down and be careful. Also, if you see any kind of funnel cloud take shape in the sky, it’s probably time to take cover immediately. Even if you don’t come across any tornadoes while driving, it’s still a good idea to be ready for them. With knowledge comes safety, and hopefully, this article will help you develop the right mindset when it comes to these amazing natural phenomena.