What do you think of when tornados come to mind? Images of massive funnel clouds tearing over the Great Plains and destroying small towns and mobile homes? Well, the news is tornados vary greatly in size and strength and can happen anywhere, at any time of the year!
Although freak accidents do happen ― and the most violent tornados can level a house ― most tornados are much weaker than the giant EF5s that most people imagine. There are tons of tornado myths out there, so it can be hard to know what advice to follow. Below we are debunking seven of the most common tornado myths out there.
- Taking shelter under an overpass will save you.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You should never seek shelter under an overpass!Even if the overpass or bridge seems structurally sound, a wind tunnel can form as a tornado passes, pushing and pulling anything beneath the overpass directly into the path of the storm. Flying debris is a common cause of death or injury to those using this method of shelter.
- The size of a tornado is indicative of its destructive strength.
The idea that size matters is absolutely false with a tornado. While the area a tornado covers may give it a larger appearance of strength, any size tornado can be deadly. In many cases, what are referred to as ‘rope’ tornados (smaller, narrower funneled storms) have often left the most destruction.
- Tornados might skip certain houses and buildings.
The truth is that a house or building might be “missed” by the path of destruction, or may have withstood the storm to a larger degree in contrast to neighbors, thereby seeming to have been “saved”. Tornados can lift and retract and drop back to a path elsewhere. This behavior is unpredictable, and while in essence seems to avoid one building and destroy the next is not necessarily evidence of divine intervention.
- Tornados only pose a danger when they touch down.
Onlookers may feel safe from a distance, often assuming that the actual funnel of a tornado is itself the tornado. In reality, the circular winds racing as much as 60 mph surrounding the funnel and extending well beyond its perceived breadth contain the most destructive power. Also, debris trapped and tossed along with the tornado pose greater risks of injury or death and can land great distances from the ‘center’ of the tornado.
- Certain terrain features can end or divert the path of a tornado.
Many people have thought that bodies of water can create obstacles for tornados. In fact, some of the most violent tornados have actually formed on lakes and rivers. Again, a tornado can move over, across, and through anything and everything!
- You will always see a funnel cloud.
Don't assume that as long as there are no visible funnel clouds that you are safe. They can be hidden in heavy rains during the day or by the dark of night.
- The southwest corner of your house is the safest place to take cover.
This myth stems from a meteorological theory published in 1887. It advised people that they should never take shelter in the NE corner of a room. The theory was published in several newspapers and became a popular belief. However, debris can be blown to any corner of a house!