Three tornado myths that just refuse to die 25


I am doing a lot of severe weather safety talks right now and it never ceases to amaze me how some old myths that have LONG been debunked are still practiced by people on a regular basis. With severe weather, including tornado potential in the forecast for tomorrow, I thought it might be a good time to remind you that these things simply are NOT true.

Myth #1: When a tornado is approaching, go around and crack open some windows to equalize the pressure and keep your house from exploding.

Truth: The central pressure in a tornado isn’t even CLOSE to being low enough to cause a house to explode and even if it was, there isn’t a house built by anyone but NASA that would be air-tight enough to cause the internal pressure to be that much higher than the outside pressure. Believe me, the tornado will open the windows FOR you. Don’t waste precious time running around opening them. It could cost you your life or at least get your floors all wet.

Myth #2: The southwest corner of the basement is the safest place to be.

Truth: After the Topeka tornado of June 8, 1966, an extensive study was done of building damage by a young Dr. Joe Eagleman from the University of Kansas that showed it was the WORST place to be. If your house is on the edge of the total destruction, it might just be shifted off of its foundation, usually to the northeast, causing the southwest corner of the house to fall into the basement. The BEST thing to do is get under something sturdy. If you have wooden steps leading down to the basement, these are the most structurally sound part of your house. Get under them, cover up and hold on!

Myth #3: A tornado can never hit (insert town name here) because (insert valley, river confluence, lake, hill, mountain, oil field, etc. here) protects it.

Truth: With very few exceptions EVERY town I have ever done a weather safety talk in has the same story about how their town can NEVER be hit by a tornado for one reason or another. Usually, the myth comes from “my dad” or “my grandfather.” I hate to tell you this, but he was full of beans. These stories get made up because tornadoes are very rare and they hit towns directly even MORE rarely. Believe me, a strongly rotating column of air that extends 12 miles into the atmosphere from a cloud that is 1000 cubic miles couldn’t care less about a hill, valley, river, lake, downtown or any other geographical feature. Tornadoes HAVE been recorded crossing all of these things, even mountains. Think about the tri-state tornado of March 18, 1925. It touched down in Missouri, went all of the way across Illinois and didn’t lift up until Indiana. It crossed the mother of all rivers, the Mississippi and countless hills, valleys, lakes, forests, oil fields, etc. and became the deadliest tornado in U.S. history, killing 695 people. Don’t let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security because of a legend your dad or grandpa told. A tornado can and WILL go wherever the forces of nature take it. If you wait long enough, it will be the exact spot where you are sitting right now.

Know of any other tornado myths/legends that you wonder about the validity of? I would love to hear them. Please comment below or on my facebook page. Most of all, remember to always prepare for the worst and pray for the best.


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25 thoughts on “Three tornado myths that just refuse to die

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I thought about including the overpass one. I think I will cover it in my next blog which will be a bit more controversial…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I thought about including the overpass one. I think I will cover it in my next blog which will be a bit more controversial…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner

      Yeah…I thought about including the overpass one. I think I will cover it in my next blog which will be a bit more controversial…

    • Meteorolgist Mark Bogner Post author

      Yeah…I thought about including the overpass one. I think I will cover it in my next blog which will be a bit more controversial…

  • Corey Schultz

    Mark,
    Great advice! I remember Dr. Eagleman discussing the southwest corner issue.

    The pressure equalization issue comes from internal pressurization, commonly referred to as the “Balloon Effect”. An opening on the windward side of a building is opened whether it be a door, window, or commonly a garage door, the building is filled with air from the strong wind and it “pops” like a balloon. If you look at residential structures that are still standing but a portion of the roof is gone, look at the garage doors. Typically they will be pushed in allowing the wind to fill the house at it will lift the roof. So not only is there force of the wind blowing over the roof (uplift) now there is pressure on the bottom side pushing the roof up.

  • Corey Schultz

    Mark,
    Great advice! I remember Dr. Eagleman discussing the southwest corner issue.

    The pressure equalization issue comes from internal pressurization, commonly referred to as the “Balloon Effect”. An opening on the windward side of a building is opened whether it be a door, window, or commonly a garage door, the building is filled with air from the strong wind and it “pops” like a balloon. If you look at residential structures that are still standing but a portion of the roof is gone, look at the garage doors. Typically they will be pushed in allowing the wind to fill the house at it will lift the roof. So not only is there force of the wind blowing over the roof (uplift) now there is pressure on the bottom side pushing the roof up.

  • Corey Schultz

    Mark,
    Great advice! I remember Dr. Eagleman discussing the southwest corner issue.

    The pressure equalization issue comes from internal pressurization, commonly referred to as the “Balloon Effect”. An opening on the windward side of a building is opened whether it be a door, window, or commonly a garage door, the building is filled with air from the strong wind and it “pops” like a balloon. If you look at residential structures that are still standing but a portion of the roof is gone, look at the garage doors. Typically they will be pushed in allowing the wind to fill the house at it will lift the roof. So not only is there force of the wind blowing over the roof (uplift) now there is pressure on the bottom side pushing the roof up.

  • Corey Schultz

    Mark,
    Great advice! I remember Dr. Eagleman discussing the southwest corner issue.

    The pressure equalization issue comes from internal pressurization, commonly referred to as the “Balloon Effect”. An opening on the windward side of a building is opened whether it be a door, window, or commonly a garage door, the building is filled with air from the strong wind and it “pops” like a balloon. If you look at residential structures that are still standing but a portion of the roof is gone, look at the garage doors. Typically they will be pushed in allowing the wind to fill the house at it will lift the roof. So not only is there force of the wind blowing over the roof (uplift) now there is pressure on the bottom side pushing the roof up.