In your car when a tornado strikes? Here's what to do

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Aerials of tornado damage in Baxter Springs

Aerials of tornado damage in Baxter Springs

Sunday's deadly tornadoes that struck the central and southern United States left at least 16 dead and many more injured or dealing with devastating property damage.

While many who found themselves in the paths of the storms took refuge in safe rooms or shelters, others were caught behind the wheel, in a car. If this happens to you, what are you supposed to do?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Weather.com offer similar tips on how to stay as safe as possible. One of the main rules: Don't hide under the embankment of an overpass. While it may seem like a safe move, you're actually increasing your risk of injury or worse, according to Weather.com. You're more likely to be struck by debris, the wind is stronger than at ground level, and the wind will change direction as the vortex passes, according to a 1999 presentation from the National Weather Association.

Other things to remember: Get to shelter if you can, which is the preferable option.

But assuming you're in the middle of nowhere in your car with no other options, the National Weather Service recommends one of the following two actions, depending on specific circumstances.

1. Stay in your car with the seat belt fastened. Slump down below the windows and cover yourself with a blanket. Weather.com advises you to keep the car running so airbags will deploy if necessary.

2. If you think you can safely get lower than the roadway, "exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands," according to NWS. Be sure to get far enough away from the car so debris, or the car if it gets tossed by wind, is less likely to hit you.

For more tornado safety tips, consult the experts at FEMA, the National Weather Service and Weather.com.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

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