Tornado Myths Debunked
It’s tornado season and this year has been unusually active—more than 300 have touched down so far, with the latest in Joplin, Mo., this week. Tornadoes can strike with little warning and transform a landscape within a matter of minutes. And while their damage can be deadly, so can the confusing myths about tornadoes that continue to put people at risk.
Here are five commonly held misperceptions about twister safety.
Myth #1: Opening windows to equalize air pressure will help minimize damage.
Do not waste precious time trying to open windows if a tornado is on its way. Doing so may only let in violent winds and flying debris. Seek shelter immediately.
Myth #2: The southwest corner of a basement is the safest place to seek shelter.
This used to be the prevailing belief because many tornadoes travel from southwest to northeast. In reality, the soundness and design of your building determines the safest area. However, experts now agree that the best place to go during a tornado is the center part of your basement or the lowest level of a building. The idea is to get as far away as possible from exterior walls and windows.
Myth #3: Tornadoes never strike big cities.
Major cities such as Miami, Nashville and Oklahoma City have all been hit by tornadoes in the past few years. Although three out of four tornadoes in the world happen in the United States, tornadoes can strike anywhere and have been documented on every continent except Antarctica. If a tornado warning is issued in your area, take it seriously.
Myth #4: Tornadoes only occur in late spring.
A tornado may occur at any time of day, and on any day of the year. However, tornadoes are most likely to occur in the late afternoon to evening (between 3pm and 9pm) during the warmer months between spring and early summer, when warm, humid air is more likely to collide with cold, dry air.
Myth #5: You can outrace a tornado in your car.
It’s best to avoid your car for several reasons during a tornado storm. Tornadoes can move up to 70 mph or more and shift directions erratically and without warning. Some tornadoes move faster than cars, even when the road is clear and flat. Also, severe thunderstorms that produce tornadoes can also produce flooding, hail and strong winds in the area. If you’re caught outdoors when a tornado approaches, find the lowest point possible, lie face down in a ditch, ravine or other low area, and cover your head to protect it from flying debris.
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