Debunking the Top Five Tornado Myths

Debunking the Top Five Tornado Myths

MYTH #1: Tornadoes are always clearly visible.

Tornadoes can be obscured, or even made completely invisible, due to rain or nearby clouds. We tend to want to see things for ourselves—seeing is believing—and almost every popular depiction of tornadoes, they stand out dramatically. The truth is, you may not be able to see a tornado before it’s on top of you. Tornadoes very often coincide with heavy rain and dark clouds that makes them difficult or impossible to spot—until it’s too late.

MYTH #2: You can out-drive a tornado.

Tornadoes can travel at speeds well in excess of sixty miles per hour, and cars can easily be lifted and tossed by the high winds that accompany a tornado. If a tornado forms while you are driving, get off the road as quickly and safely as possible and seek shelter underground if possible, or in the sturdiest building you can find.

MYTH #3: Tornadoes do not form near big cities, near mountains or tall hills, or cross bodies of water.

Tornadoes can form and touch down anywhere, not just in the Midwestern plains. No matter which part of the country you live, or whether you live in an urban or rural environment, it is best to be prepared. Stay abreast of your region’s emergency awareness system. Tornado prone regions have disaster sirens which sound an alarm loud enough to be heard for miles, which used to be common to notify residents of an imminent threat, but these are largely obsolete. It’s best to stay tuned to weather radio on a mobile device.

MYTH #4: The southwest corner of a basement is safest during a tornado.

Tornadoes can—and do—move in any direction, so taking shelter in one specific corner is in now way more beneficial. The best place to shelter is, in fact, not against an exterior wall at all, but in an interior room on the lowest floor (preferably underground), as far away as possible from any exterior walls and windows.

MYTH #5: When a tornado is imminent, open all the windows in the house.

Tornadoes are incredibly powerful, and open windows in a house will make absolutely no difference to the amount of damage a tornado can cause. This misguided effort to neutralize or depressurize a building will in no way equalize the destructive force of a tornado. Opening windows when a tornado warning is issued is waste of valuable time. Instead, seek shelter in a basement or any interior room without windows to guard against flying debris.