Common misconceptions about tornadoes

03/06/2009 2:41 PM

03/06/2009 2:41 PM

Myth: Tornadoes never strike the same place twice.
Fact: Cordell, Kan., had a tornado hit on May 20 three years in a row in 1916, 1917, 1918. In Guy, Ark., three tornadoes hit the same church on the same day.

Myth: Big cities and their tall buildings are protected from tornadoes.
Fact: Big cities and their immediate surrounding areas are not protected from tornadoes. In fact, many cities across the United States have been hit directly within recent times, such as Miami, Oklahoma City, Houston, Fort Worth and Nashville.

Myth: Seeking shelter in the southwest corner of your house will protect you from being hit by debris.
Fact: This myth was devised solely by the misconception that all tornadoes propagate in a northeast direction. Therefore, as the tornado hits your house, all the debris will be brought with it to the northeast and away from you. Since tornadoes can move from any direction, this myth is obviously false. During a tornado warning, people will want to seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest level of the building away from windows and under a sturdy piece of furniture or staircase.

Myth: To minimize damage to your house, open all the windows prior to a tornado striking it to equalize the pressure inside and prevent it from exploding.
Fact: While tornadoes do have incredible pressure changes associated within them, if a tornado strikes your house directly the winds alone will damage it severely anyway. All homes have the ability to equalize its pressure inside since no house is 100 percent completely sealed. Furthermore, by opening windows, you allow no chance of the window shielding you from debris outside, which may cause bodily harm, and it wastes precious time you need to take cover.

Myth: The shape and size of the tornado determines how strong it is.
Fact: Tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes and one should not depend on how large they are or their shape to determine strength. The only way to determine the strength of the tornado is through damage assessments conducted by the National Weather Service or by taking a direct measurement of wind.

Myth: Mobile homes attract tornadoes.
Fact: Nothing attracts tornadoes. Tornadoes form and travel at their own leisure. It seems as though mobile homes attract tornadoes because they are more susceptible to damage. On a pro-rated basis, though, higher numbers of fatalities and injuries occur with mobile homes.

Source: National Weather Service

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