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Deadly tornadoes in U.S. spark reminder to seek shelter in a ditch if trapped outdoors

NOAA said protecting your body and head is extremely important when you're trapped outdoors with no shelter.
Search and rescue team members continue to look for tornado victims in Rolling Fork, Miss.
Search and rescue team members look for tornado victims in Rolling Fork, Miss., on March 26.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

As deadly tornadoes rip through parts of the U.S., the National Weather Service would like people to be aware of one potential life-saving tip: Hiding in a ditch if you find yourself trapped outside and can't make it to a safe building just might save your life.

One of the safest places to ride out a twister is in the basement of a home or an interior room with no windows. But that might not be an option for people who live in mobile homes or find themselves trapped in their vehicles.

In that case, the National Weather Service says the next best thing is to "seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine." Staying inside a car or mobile home can be extremely dangerous.

Zachary Peck-Chapman and his wife, Ally Chapman, quickly realized the dangers they faced when a tornado struck near their RV in Orange, Texas, in January. Video footage that went viral showed them sprinting from their RV during heavy rain and wind and taking cover in nearby ditch water with their two dogs.

Peck-Chapman said it was the most terrifying moment of his life.

In a YouTube video on their channel, Nomadic Habits, Chapman said they had about 30 seconds to seek shelter once the tornado alarms went off. She said they ran to the ditch because that's something she was always taught.

"For me growing up, I was just always told if you got caught in the car to find a low ground and it needs to be a deep ditch, so one where if you were crouching your head is below the level," she said. "Always have blankets to be prepared, always cover yourself."

Peck-Chapman added: "The idea with a ditch, too, is that it's lower than the ground level, so any debris that's flying from the tornado is gonna pass over top of you."

Peck-Chapman said they feared staying in the RV because it could have toppled over.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that protecting your body and head is extremely important when trapped outdoors with no shelter.

"If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado," the agency said.