April 16, 2013
When it comes to preparing for severe weather, you can never be too careful. Unfortunately, several questionable urban legends have cropped up and continue to persist through the years. While some of these old wives tales may seem plausible, science has shown that they can actually put you and your family in more danger. Below are some of the most common weather myths and why they should be put to rest:
MYTH: If a tornado is approaching, opening windows will equalize pressure and prevent your house from exploding.
REALITY: This outdated myth centers on the assumption that low pressure is the most destructive feature of a tornado. However, most damage is actually caused by the tornado’s strong winds and flying debris. Opening windows won’t save your home, but it will reduce the amount of time you have to take cover. A weather alert radio can instantly warn you of approaching storms even during a power outage, giving your family the most time possible to move to a safe area. When it comes to severe weather, every second counts, so forget the windows and take shelter immediately.
MYTH: The safest place to be during a tornado is the southwest corner of a basement.
REALITY: Many years ago, a theory arose that if a tornado moves in a northeast direction, so will its wind and debris, leaving the southwest corner of a building practically untouched. While it’s true that many (though not all) tornadic storms move from west to east, or southwest to northeast, a tornado’s rotating winds can propel objects in any direction. Always seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest level of your home, placing as many walls as possible between you and the storm.
MYTH: If I’m caught on the road during a tornado, I should seek shelter under a highway or interstate overpass.
REALITY: Overpasses are actually some of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado. As the wind is forced to squeeze through an overpass or tunnel, its speed increases. People hiding under the overpass are subjected to these even-stronger winds with very little to protect them. Being above ground level also makes you more susceptible to flying debris, increasing the risk of injury or death. Unfortunately, there is no good option if you are caught driving during a tornado. Always be aware of the weather forecast and postpone your trip if possible. If you must be on the road, listen to local radio stations or NOAA weather radio to stay up to date on weather hazards. If a warning is issued for your location or along your route, seek shelter in a sturdy building until the threat passes. As a last resort, pull off the road, leave your vehicle and lie flat in a low ditch away from trees and cars.
MYTH: The sky will turn green before a tornado.
REALITY: Green-tinted clouds usually foreshadow severe weather, but not necessarily tornadoes. While researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause, most agree that the green hue is produced by the scattering of light through a very tall thundercloud. These storms are generally strong and may produce plenty of lightning and hail, but no association has been found to reliably predict tornadoes. Tornadoes can and do occur without a green-tinted sky, so don’t rely on a cloud’s color to determine if you need to take shelter. Always monitor the current severe weather hazards via local news channels or a NOAA weather alert radio.
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