Tornadoes: Fact vs Fiction

Tornadoes: Fact vs Fiction

Tornadoes are one of Mother Nature’s mysterious creations. Over the last 50 years, we have learned a lot about how they form and when they are likely to occur, but there are still a lot of misconceptions out there. We wanted to try and help separate the facts from all the fiction. Let’s start:


Fact or Fiction?  When the sirens start going off signaling a tornado warning in your area, the first thing you should do is open all the windows in your house to help equalize the pressure?

This sounds good in theory and I’m sure we were all taught this growing up but it is completely fiction. The first thing you should do when sirens are going off in your area is round up your family and take cover inside a storm shelter. If you don’t have a storm shelter (We know a pretty good place where you can purchase one ; ) then find an area in the middle of the house and cover yourselves with blankets. Opening windows only wastes time and in these situations, time is of the essence.

Fact or Fiction?  Rivers located around a city offer protection from tornadoes?

This is a common belief in the NE part of Oklahoma, especially the Tulsa area. However, it is pure fiction. A significant sized tornado has passed through pretty much every major river located East of the Rocky Mountains. The tornado that touched down in Sand Springs, just outside of Tulsa, on March 25th, 2015, crossed the Arkansas river twice!

Fact or Fiction? Tornadoes can form in the middle of the night?

As scary as this is, it is a fact. There is no set time of the day or even year when tornadoes can form. Many tornadoes have wrecked havoc during the night time hours, however the likelihood is lower then during the day. In Oklahoma, you need to always remember that we can have tornadoes anytime. Statistically, we have had them touch down every month of the year and all times of the day. It is always smart to be weather cautious.

Fact or Fiction? Tornadoes can pick up items at one location and set them down miles away undamaged?

This is technically Fact, however, the chances of it happening are very unlikely. There have been several occurrences where people have documented items or even other people as being picked up by a tornado, only to be released a great distance away without harm. You have to remember that during a tornado there is going to be a heavy amount of debris and with that comes increased chances of collision. It can and has happened, but it definitely isn’t common.

Fact or Fiction? It is impossible for tornadoes to form in the mountains!

Similar to the myth that tornadoes can’t cross riverbeds, this is total fiction! Tornadoes have been documented in Appalachians, Rockies, and Sierra Nevadas. Tornado destruction has also been reported in areas above 10,000 feet. In 1987, a tornado rated as an F-4 crossed the Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park. This area can reach heights of 13,000 feet above sea level!

Fact or Fiction? My car can outrace a tornado.

Fiction. Tornadoes can move over 70 mph on the ground and they are extremely unpredictable. It is not uncommon for a tornado to all of a sudden shift directions. You do not want to be on the roads during a severe tornado. Seek cover in your storm shelter or safe room.

Fact or Fiction?  The SW corner of a building offers more protection from tornadoes?

Fiction. The safest area of your home will always be inside your storm shelter. If you don’t have one, then get as many walls between you and the storm as you can. Generally, you want to be inside a small room or closet towards the middle of the house on the lowest floor.

Fact or Fiction? Most tornadoes that form are really big and destructive.

Fiction. Most tornadoes that for are only 50-100 feet in width, travel less then a mile, and stay on the ground only a few minutes or less. However, these types of tornadoes can still be deadly if they hit the right area. The highly feared EF4 and EF5 sized tornadoes are less then 5% of all reported touchdowns.

Fact or Fiction? Tornadic thunderstorms typically produce a lot more lightning and hail?

This is fact and the reason for it is because tornadic thunderstorms have more intense updrafts that can quickly amplify charge separation and electrical build up. The increased amount of lifting during these storms also tends to freeze layers of supercooled water drops.

Fact or Fiction? The United States is a tornado breeding ground and produces more of these storms then the rest of the world combined?

Even though it’s scary to think about, this is fact.  Three out of every four tornadoes that form throughout the world, touchdown in the United States. That means that 75% of all tornadoes are American. We average over 800 tornadoes a year. The state of Oklahoma alone averages 55 a year with 2015 giving us 98!!! Still think you don’t need a storm shelter??





Tornado: Fact vs. Fiction Oklahoma

Tornado: Fact vs. Fiction



Does Tulsa Get Tornadoes?

Does Tulsa Get Tornadoes?

F5 Storm Shelters opened our Tulsa location in June of 2014. It comes up quite a bit, but many people in the city have a feeling that Tulsa is a safe haven from tornadoes because a lot of the terrain in the NE region of Oklahoma is a bit more hilly. On the flip side, Oklahoma City, is in a much more flat area of the state and this leaves it more prone to tornadic activity. Is this information accurate? Does rougher terrain make it more difficult for severe weather to form? Is Tulsa protected against tornadoes? We wanted to find out.

A little bit of research and we discovered that tornadoes have been observed on terrain as high as 12,000 ft above sea level! There is also documentation of a tornado traveling up a 3,000 ft ridge unaffected.In 1944, a violent tornado cut a continuous path at least 60 miles through heavily mountainous territory in West Virginia, killing at least 100 people. Here are just a few examples of tornadoes we found that formed in rougher terrain:

A hill known as Burnett’s Mound on the southwest end of Topeka, Kansas was purported to protect the city from tornadoes, according to an old legend. However, in 1966, an F5 tornado passed directly over the hill through downtown, killing 18 people and causing $100 million in damage.

During the Super Outbreak, violent tornadoes crossed dozens of rivers, including the Ohio, Detroit River as well as crossing over mountains and ridges hundreds of feet high.

Another example of tornadoes hitting mountainous regions of the United States is the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak, which hit mountainous parts of East Tennessee, Northeast Alabama, Southwest Virginia and North Georgia, killing many people, including an entire family of 4 in Ringgold, Georgia.

We are still figuring out how it is tornadoes form, but we do know that they can form anywhere. No terrain feature can prevent this from happening. Tulsa, like all of Oklahoma, is at extreme risk of having a tornado touch down at anytime of the year. Statistically, since 1950, Tulsa county and Oklahoma county have experienced almost the same amount of tornadoes. However, Tulsa has not gotten the giant F5 that has devastated OKC numerous times over the last decade. OKC has reported at least 2 F5 torandoes over the last 5 years. Joplin, Missouri has gotten one. Tulsa is located almost directly in the middle of both cities. It is not a matter of ‘If Tulsa can get hit by a tornado,’ it’s a matter of ‘when will Tulsa get hit by a tornado?’ Everybody in the state needs to be prepared for severe weather. We are here to help.

F5 Storm Shelters OKC (405) 824-7209
Tulsa (918) 970-4770 Stay Alive, Call F5!

10 Facts About Tornadoes That Everybody Should Know

10 Facts About Tornadoes That Everybody Should Know

We thought it would be cool to come up with a list of facts about tornadoes that most people don’t know, but probably should. Living in tornado alley, it is important to know as much as you can about these terrible twisters in order to better stay safe when they touch down.

1. Most tornadoes tend to move from the Southwest towards the Northeast. It is also possible for them to move in the opposite direction for certain periods of time if the winds from the eye of the storm are strong enough.

2. Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water. They tend to be weaker and usually occur during the late Fall or Winter seasons. If they do move on to land, they become full grown tornadoes.

3. On average. most funnel clouds last around 10 minutes. Most reported touchdowns only last a few seconds, but worst case scenario, some have been reported to be on the ground for over an hour.

4. The middle part of the country known as ‘The Great Plains’ (North Dakota down to Texas) is a breeding ground for tornadoes during the Spring and early Summer months. The flat terrain makes it easy for twisters to form.

5. Oklahoma City has been hit with more tornadoes then any other city in the United States! OKC has reported over 100 known tornado touch downs, but the numbers are thought to be much higher since documented reporting only goes back so far. OKC seems to be the bulls eye on the tornado map dart board.

6. Texas is the state with the most reported tornadoes. This is not surprising due to the massive size of the state.

7. Three out of every four tornadoes that touch down throughout the world, touch down in the United States!

8. The widest tornado ever reported and the tornado with the highest wind speeds ever reported both happened in……Oklahoma. In fact, the wind speeds reported during the Moore tornado in 1999 (302 mph) are the highest wind speeds reported on planet Earth!

9. The average time of the day to expect a tornado is between the hours of 3pm-9pm.

10. Tornadoes have occurred in every state in the United States and during every month of the calendar year.