6 Myths About Tornadoes

Feb 9, 2012

By Staff Writer

When you're in the path of a twister, every second counts. Knowing effective ways to protect yourself and your family could help save lives.

Myth 1: Opening windows equalizes air pressure and helps prevent the roof from being ripped off.

Fact: This act does little or nothing to prevent damage and wastes precious minutes in an emergency.

Tip: The powerful winds of a tornado can shatter windows. Help avoid injuries caused by flying, broken glass by taking shelter in a windowless room.

Myth 2: Taking shelter under an overpass during a tornado will protect me.

Fact: Overpasses and bridges can actually concentrate airflow from a tornado and become dangerous "wind tunnels." Hiding under an overpass may subject you to severe injuries from flying debris or even cause you to be blown out into the storm itself.

Tip: While not an ideal solution, it may be safer to find a low spot, such as a ditch, and lie face down with your hands covering your head.

Myth 3: The safest place to hide in a storm is the southwest corner of the basement.
Fact: A corner is often safer than against the middle of a long wall, which may be vulnerable to collapse in a tornado. A better bet is to gather in a small, windowless interior room on the lowest floor in a home.

Tip: Protect yourself from flying and falling debris by taking shelter under a heavy desk, mattress or sturdy stairwell.

Myth 4: Tornadoes are easy to spot.

Fact: A tornado may not be visible until it has picked up sufficient dirt and debris. Waiting to take shelter until you can actually see a funnel cloud puts you at risk.

Tip: Listen to weather reports for tornado warnings. A warning tells you a tornado has been spotted on radar and that you should seek shelter immediately.

Myth 5: I could outrun a tornado in my car.

Fact: It's never a good idea to try. The average ground speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but its winds can exceed 200 mph. Even if you're able to stay ahead of the funnel cloud, you could find yourself driving through drenching downpours and flying debris. You might also encounter downed power lines, trees, and other dangerous obstacles in the road.

Tip: While it does not recommend escaping a tornado by car, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says if you are in open country and the tornado is distant, it may be possible to drive out of harm's way. After detecting the direction of the storm's movement, drive at a right angle away from the tornado.

Myth 6: Tornadoes never strike here.

Fact: While some areas have a greater likelihood of tornadoes, these dangerous storms have occurred in every state in the U.S., in both urban and rural areas, and over land, mountains, and water. Never assume a particular location will be spared and always heed tornado warnings when they are issued.

Tip: Even if tornadoes are rare in your area, develop an emergency plan and practice it with your family.

More information about staying safe during a tornado is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Red Cross.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.

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