Spring time in East Texas can be tricky as far as the weather is concerned. We will see cold fronts moving into our region of the United States that will clash with the warm air that sits in our area. Because of that clash, strong to very severe storms will develop. In those storms we will see lots of lightning, loud thunder, heavy rain, various sizes of hail and tornadoes both big and small. But what if you are out running some errands on a Saturday afternoon and a tornado strikes in Tyler, Texas, or anywhere in East Texas? Is a business required to give you shelter from the storm?

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East Texas Severe Weather

Severe weather is not an uncommon occurrence in East Texas. We've witnessed that first hand with large tornadoes in Van and Canton over the last six to seven years. We've seen widespread flooding in many areas of East Texas from several days of heavy rain. Severe weather is an event we expect any time of the year and have a plan at home in case it strikes where we live.

Severe Weather at Work

Severe weather can strike while at work as well. Your employer most likely has a plan in the case severe weather strikes. There could be a designated closet or central interior room that everyone can gather in to take cover until the threat has passed. Running drills at work on occasion will keep employees knowledgeable of what to do in case severe weather strikes.

Severe Weather at School

The school your child goes to has a plan in place in case severe weather strikes. As we experienced while in school, schools run surprise drills so students will stay informed on what to do and where to go during a severe weather event.

Get to a small, windowless, interior room - Mark Scirto

As we do on any given weekend in East Texas, we will be out running errands. Its very possible that severe weather could strike while we are in our vehicles heading to that next stop. If we are inside a business, it is highly likely that they have a plan to shelter their customers who are already inside the store. That could be moving them to a walk-in cooler or a storage closet. Broadway Square Mall in Tyler has designated tornado shelter areas. They will announce over their speaker system if customers need to move to those areas.

But what if you are not in the store and need to run inside to seek shelter, are they required to let you in?

I did some searching online and could not find any city (Longview, Tyler, wherever) declaration or ordinance that requires a business to let you in to seek shelter from a storm if you are not already a customer. Some businesses may even lock their doors during a severe weather event. That's not to say that a business would not or could not let you in. That business can certainly do it if it is deemed safe.

So No. Do Not Expect a Business to Let You in to Seek Shelter During Severe Weather

But again, and I want to make this clear, that doesn't mean that a business will not let you in. I'm only pointing this out so you won't be mad if a business does not let you in. They may not know you are outside because they are sheltered in place already which would make it unsafe for them to come out. The store's emergency plan may include locking the doors so that customers do not leave until the threat has passed.

The City of Tyler does have several tips on what to do in case severe weather strikes:

  • If in a home that is built on a foundation, have a safe room, basement, or storm cellar available that everyone can go to ride out the storm.
  • If in a manufactured or mobile home, get into a storm cellar or find a low lying area outside.
  • DO NOT shelter under an overpass or bridge.

We make fun of Mark Scirto during his severe weather coverage but his famous phrase is very accurate to protect yourself during a tornado:

Stay Safe and Be Prepared

Make sure your family has a plan during severe weather. At 101.5 KNUE, we are required to provide severe weather alerts over our airwaves from the National Weather Service. Bring a battery operated radio into your shelter area and tune into 101.5 KNUE to hear those alerts so you can be informed on when the storm is over you and when it has passed. Stay safe during, and be prepared for, severe weather in East Texas.

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