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??