8 Tornado Myths and the Facts That Could Save Your Life

At this time of the year, you probably have fall preparation and the status of your child’s homework on your mind. You’re probably not paying much mind to the weather, unless the forecast is bringing crisp, cool fall weather, that is. Even though the prime time for tornadoes has passed, tornadoes can strike with very little warning and at any time of the year (remember the New Year’s Eve tornado of 2010?).

Tornadoes can absolutely devastate an area and transform the landscape within a matter of minutes. The damage dealt from a tornado can be deadly, and so can the myths that have circulated around for years and years. These myths put thousands of people, thinking they are playing it safe, in mortal danger.

Learn all about the 8 most commonly-held myths and perceptions about tornado safety and the truth about tornadoes below!

Myth: Opening the windows in your home will help equalize the air pressure, minimizing any damage the home receives.

Fact: This is a totally unnecessary endeavor that wastes your valuable time in getting to a safe spot. If a tornado passes close enough to do any damage to your house, there’s really nothing you can do about it. Instead, seek shelter immediately and leave the windows down!

Myth: Tornadoes only happen during late spring.

Fact: As we stated above, tornadoes can happen any time of the year and at any time of the day or night without very little warning. Yes, they are more prevalent from the late afternoon to the evening and during the warmer months between spring and early summer when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air. However, it’s best to be prepared for tornadoes at anytime. Pay close attention to the weather reports if inclement weather is heading your way anytime of the year.

Myth: Tornadoes never cross rivers or large bodies of water.

Fact: If this were true, we’d never see tornadoes in Illinois because of the Mississippi River! It doesn’t matter what’s in front of it – a tornado will pass through it or over it. A good example is the Natchez, Mississippi tornado of 1840. This deadly tornado traveled directly down the Mississippi River and killed hundreds of people. Never assume you’re safe from a tornado if there’s a body of water between it and you.

Myth: Want to get away from tornadoes? Move to the mountains! They never happen there.

Fact: Just like bodies of water, mountains prove to be no resistance to tornadoes. Tornadoes will not bend or sway just because a huge landmass is in front of it. In fact, tornadoes have been documented in the mountains, including damage from an F-4 tornado that wreaked havoc 10,000 feet above the ground!

Myth: Tornadoes don’t hit the big cities.

Fact: Let’s think about probability for a moment. In the United States, there are actually very few cities than there are rural areas. It makes statistical sense that tornadoes would hit rural areas not because of the lack of huge buildings but because there are simply more rural areas in the nation. Additionally, tornadoes have hit major cities including Nashville, Oklahoma City, and even Miami in the past few years.

Myth: The safest place to seek shelter from a tornado is in the southwest corner of your basement.

Fact: This used to be a prevailing belief since many tornadoes tend to travel from the southwest and head northeast; however, the soundness and design of your home determines the safest area. According to the National Weather Service, you should take shelter in your basement under something sturdy like a work bench or a couch.

Myth: You can outrace a tornado in your car.

Fact: Absolutely not. It’s wisest to avoid your car for several reasons when a tornado is around. They can move 60 mph or more and shift directions erratically without any warning. Additionally, tornadoes are well-known to produce flooding, hail, and strong winds, all of which can slow you down as the tornado comes barreling down. If a tornado hits when you’re driving, pull over somewhere safe and seek shelter indoors.

Myth: Hide under an overpass if you’re on the road and a tornado is approaching.

Fact: This is probably the worst tornado myth that we’ve heard. Taking shelter under an overpass is one of the most dangerous things you can do when a tornado is coming, aside from racing straight toward the tornado. The winds could potentially interact with the bridge structure, and you could be sucked out, hurt by the bridge structure, or hit with any flying debris that comes your way. Instead, get to a ditch and press yourself against the earth as much as you can.

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