Thursday, August 22, 2019

Severe Weather Awareness Week – Tornado Myths

Do you know what to do during a tornado?

This week is Severe Weather Awareness week across Texas. With the spring storm season right around the corner, now is the time to begin preparing for its effects. Tornadoes are always a concern during times of severe weather, and there are many misconceptions about the behavior of tornadoes. Read through these tornado myths to see what you can do to be prepared for severe weather.

Myth: The southwest part of a building is the safest in a tornado.

This myth was widely believed throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s due to a belief that all tornadoes move northeast, which would carry the debris away from the southwest portion of the structure. We now know that tornadoes do not always move in the same direction, and that the part of a building struck by a tornado is actually the most unsafe.

Recommendation: You should always take shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor of a building. The best places are underground, under a staircase, or in the tub of an interior bathroom. If possible, place a mattress over yourself to protect from flying debris.

Myth: If a tornado is coming, I should open the windows in my house to equalize the pressure. This will prevent the walls from blowing out.

While tornadoes cause a slight pressure decrease, this is not sufficient to cause the walls of a structure to “blow out”. Damage seen from a tornado is always caused from winds and flying debris. In any event, the windows will be one of the first things to be broken by a tornado.

Recommendation: Don’t worry about opening your windows to equalize pressure. It does not make any difference, and the tornado will open the windows for you anyway. Spend your time seeking shelter instead.

Myth: If I see a tornado when I am driving, an overpass is a safe place to take shelter.

A popular video recorded in 1991 depicts a television crew taking shelter under an overpass in Kansas. This video led many to believe that an overpass is a safe place to take shelter, but this simply is not the case. The people in the video got extremely lucky, as the winds they experienced were lessened since the tornado did not hit them directly. In reality, overpasses create a wind tunnel effect that magnifies wind speed and has caused fatalities to individuals who sought shelter there.  Stopping on the side of the road to take shelter also creates traffic blockages that could put others in danger.

Recommendation: Seeking shelter under an overpass is one of the worst places to take shelter during a tornado. If you see a tornado while you’re driving, don’t try to outrun it. Try to take shelter in a well-built building, if possible. If no buildings are around, get out of the car and lie face down in a low area with your hands covering your head and neck.

Myth: Tornadoes do not strike downtown areas

As we saw in Fort Worth in 2000, downtown areas are not immune from tornadoes. In fact, more than 100 tornadoes have struck downtown areas since record keeping began. Tornadoes seem rare in downtown areas simply because of those areas make up a small geographical area.

Recommendation: Remain vigilant if the weather turns bad while you are in a downtown area, and be prepared to take shelter.

Myth: Tornadoes hit mobile home parks more often than other areas.

Tornadoes do not hit mobile home parks any more often than they do other areas, but the results can be dire when one does strike. Mobile homes offer little to no protection in the event of a tornado. Because of this, over half of tornado deaths from 2000 to 2008 occurred in mobile homes. This number is incredible, considering that mobile homes only make up 6.8% of homes in the United States.

Recommendation: If you live in a mobile home, seek shelter in a well-built building or in a low-lying area with your hands protecting your neck and head. A mobile home is not a place you want to be during a tornado.

To learn more about severe weather safety and emergency preparedness, make plans to come out to the Southlake Safety Fair on Saturday February 25th at Bob Jones Park located at 3901 North White Chapel Boulevard, Southlake, Texas 76092 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.