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Tornado Myths Debunked

Published: June 2017

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.

Video Transcript

5 Tornado Myths Debunked

Misconceptions about tornadoes may put you at risk. Let's bust some common myths.

Tornadoes are more likely during spring and early summer. But they can occur at any time.

Some people think that opening windows equalizes air pressure. But in reality, it may let in violent winds and flying debris. Instead of worrying about the windows, seek shelter immediately.

Many tornadoes may travel from southwest to northeast. But the safest place to weather a tornado really comes down to the soundness and design of your building. It's important to seek shelter, whether in your basement or in an interior room or closet.

Tornadoes may move at 60 miles per hour and shift direction without warning — so you wouldn’t even be able to predict where to drive to avoid one. If you're already driving, pull over and seek shelter indoors. If that’s not possible, stay in the car with your seat belt on. Cover your head with your hands (and a blanket if you have one) and keep your head below the windows.

A tornado can strike anywhere. If a warning is issued in your area, take it seriously.


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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. The National Weather Service says you should take shelter in your basement under something sturdy, like a work bench.

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. 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 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 60 mph or more and shift directions erratically and without warning. Some tornadoes can 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. Accuweather says that if you’re driving when a tornado hits, you should pull over somewhere safe and seek shelter indoors.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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