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Tornado Safety Myths: 7 Dangerous Misconceptions About Twisters

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TORNADO SAFETY
Tornado safety is jeopardized when people buy in to myths about twisters. | Shutterstock

The deadly tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. on Monday serves as a tragic reminder of just how dangerous twisters can be -- and how misunderstood.

There are many popular misconceptions about tornadoes, and buying into them only raises the risk that you or someone you love will be injured or killed should severe weather come your way.

One of the biggest misconceptions about tornadoes is that they don't cross rivers.

Landforms can affect the distribution of tornadoes, but rivers don't seem to have any effect on them, according to the website of the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office. One of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, the Tri-State tornado of 1925, crossed both the Mississippi and Wabash Rivers.

Six more dangerous misconceptions about tornadoes:

  • Misconception: It's a good idea to open the windows in your home -- in order to "equalize pressure" as a tornado approaches. In fact, houses do not "explode" when tornadoes pass over them. Opening the windows wastes precious time that would be better spent finding shelter, according to the NWS website.
  • Misconception: The southwest corner of a building is the safest place to be during a tornado. The "safe southwest corner" is a myth based on the mistaken belief that since tornadoes usually come from the southwest, debris tends to fall into the northeast side of the basement, USA Today reports.
  • Misconception: Tornadoes never strike twice in same place. Tornadoes can strike at any time, no matter whether they have struck there before, according to the website Missouri Storm Aware.
  • Misconception: Tornadoes don't hit big cities. Tornadoes have hit Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, and other large cities in the U.S., according to the website of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center. And urban tornadoes may be especially dangerous, as there is more debris flying around.
  • Misconception: Highway overpasses are great places to seek shelter during a tornado. In fact, seeking shelter in an overpass only increases the risk of injury and death, according to the website of the Ohio Committee For Severe Weather Awareness. Wind speeds can be higher under an overpass, and the wind direction can reverse direction as the tornado passes. Better to seek shelter in a sturdy building -- or, if you can't get to such a building in time, to lie flat in a ditch and clasp your hands behind your head for protection from flying debris.
  • Misconception: It's easy to outrun a tornado. Tornadoes can move at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, according to the NOAA website. It's better to abandon your vehicle and seek shelter than to attempt to drive away from a nearby storm.

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