Five Deadly Tornado Myths
Each year, the United States has more tornadoes than anywhere else on Earth: 1,200 on average. From the earliest native people to today, every generation has experienced these dangerous and deadly storms. So, you’d think we would have them completely figured out. Unfortunately, the truth is, we don’t. Not only are scientists still debating the why’s and how’s of tornado formation and activity. But also, many Americans still cling to deadly tornado myths that are just plain wrong. Here are five common tornado myths that live on to this day:
- “Tornadoes don’t hit here.”
- “The outdoor sirens will alert me.”
- “This can’t be a tornado. It’s not tornado season.”
- “I don’t see it. It must be a false alarm.”
- “I don’t need a weather radio; it’s old technology.”
These Tornado Myths Really Can Get You Killed
“Tornadoes don’t hit here.”
The people of Topeka, Kansas believed they were protected from tornadoes by Burnett’s Mound; a sacred Indian hill on the southwest side of town. In all fairness, there is no evidence that the Native Americans or Chief Burnett himself ever made such a claim. Regardless, many Topeka residents believed it to be true—up until June 8, 1966 when an F-5 tornado passed directly over the mound, and tore through the heart of Topeka.
Brandenburg, KY thought its perch atop a bluff overlooking the Ohio River would protect it from tornadoes, but on April 3, 1974 a massive twister leveled it. Tornado researcher Ted Fujita documented a tornado in Grand Teton National Park that went up, over, and down a 10,000-foot mountain. No hill, mountain, creek, valley, highway, or confluence of rivers protects anyone from a tornado’s wrath, regardless of local lore.
“The outdoor sirens will alert me.”
Yes, they will — if you are outside, and if they still have power. Outdoor sirens are for outdoor alerting only. Expect to hear them when you’re walking your dog, playing baseball, or getting into your car after shopping. They were never designed to alert you when you’re inside a home, school, or business. For indoor alerting use a NOAA Weather Radio, the indoor tornado siren.
“This can’t be a tornado. It’s not tornado season.”
Yes, there are tornado seasons when we expect an increase in activity. However, with the right conditions, tornadoes can occur anywhere in the country, on any day of the year. Kenosha, Wisconsin had a tornado on January 7, 2008. “Wait, we can’t have a tornado when we’re still ice fishing!” Yes, you can. Here is what kind of damage an EF-3 tornado can do—in a northern state, in the middle of winter:
“I don’t see it. It must be a false alarm.”
The National Weather Service averages a thirteen-minute lead on their tornado warnings. Don’t waste your warning time going outside to see if the tornado’s really there. On May 22, 2011 people in Joplin, Missouri looked west and saw what appeared to be a large black downpour of heavy, heavy rain. It was actually an enormous tornado:
“I don’t need a weather radio; it’s old technology.”
The Wright Brothers demonstrated powered flight in 1903, but when we fly we don’t consider today’s airliners to be “old technology.” An established idea, updated and improved, still holds tremendous value. NOAA Weather Radio is a radio broadcast direct from the National Weather Service. During important events, radio signals don’t slow down or freeze the way cell phone signals do. And unlike the rumors and false information spread by social media, NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts only official, verified information from weather experts and emergency managers.
Weather radios are your “indoor tornado siren”, constantly monitoring a silent broadcast that instantly alerts you day or night to deadly storms. For less than the cost of a night at the movies, you can have the official “Voice of the National Weather Service” in your home, school or business. Your life, and the lives of your loved ones, are well worth the investment. Get and use a weather radio as soon as you can, and make your family part of our Weather-Ready Nation.