Courtesy of High Plains Regional Climate Center
The following are some myths about tornadoes followed by the reality.
When traveling by car, seek shelter under an overpass.
No! The No. 1 priority in tornado safety right now is to discourage people from seeking shelter under overpasses. Wind currents are concentrated as they are squeezed under the overpasses and are increased in speed. This increased speed with flying debris increases the risk of injury or death.
Mobile homes attract tornadoes.
False. Mobile homes are not more likely to be hit, they are just more vulnerable to wind damage.
Cities, hills and/or rivers deflect or inhibit tornadoes.
Also false. Tornadoes have been observed crossing the Appalachian Mountains. Thirty significant tornadoes have crossed the Mississippi River and major tornadoes have plowed right through Dallas, Kansas City, Omaha and other large cities. In August 1999, a tornado went right through downtown Salt Lake City.
We should open windows if a tornado is approaching.
No! STAY AWAY from all windows. It won't make any difference whether the windows are open or closed if your home is struck by a tornado).
The southwest corner of the house is the safest location during
Not necessarily. Always go to the lowest level and center of house during a warning. A small interior room like a bathroom is structurally the strongest. Always cover your head.
Tornadoes, like lightning, never strike twice.
False. Guy, Arkansas has been hit three times by a tornado, damaging the same church each time. Cordell, Kan., had a tornado hit it on May 20 -- three years in a row ... 1916, 1917 and 1918.
Tornadoes are the number one weather killer in the United States.
This, too, is false. From 1960 through 1996, the number of fatalities due to weather phenomena were: flash floods, 4,629; lightning, 3,221; tornadoes, 2,734, and hurricanes, 1,104.
The "clash of the seasons" causes tornadoes.
False. A temperature contrast is important, but circulation dynamics (shear), upper level support (jet stream) and high moisture content are more important than a temperature contrast. The "clash" of the summer and fall seasons, for example, result in very few tornadoes.
Tornadoes rotate only anti-clockwise.
False. A few small F-0 and F-1 tornadoes can rotate "anti-cyclonically" (especially late summer). Also, rare, small tornadoes can change "morph" from anticyclonic to cyclonic.
Most tornadoes are the large size that you see on the evening
False. Most tornadoes are small, (50 to 100 feet wide), travel less than a 1 mile and last only a few minutes.