Getting caught out in a tornado is bad enough without having a dangerously misled concept of how these monsters work in the first place. Compiled here is a list of the worst, most dangerous misconceptions to have about twisters. Knowing the facts could mean the difference between life and death.
1. A Tornado’s Power Is Measured By Its Size
This one makes sense. The skinny, string-like twisters might look scary, but the real damage is caused by the giant, wedge-shaped titans. Right? Wrong – a tornado’s strength is actually measured by the damage it causes, which, surprisingly, is a factor completely independent of the funnel width.
That means a huge, mile-wide monster twister, while still dangerous, might only rank on the Fajita scale as an F1 or weaker. Likewise, a pitiful-looking rope of a tornado that you might not feel the need to take protective measures against may very well be capable of ripping a brick home right off its foundations and destroying everything inside. Sometimes, looks aren’t just deceiving – they can kill.
2. Overpasses Protect You From a Tornado
In 1991, a television crew and a handful of others ran underneath a highway overpass in El Dorado, Kansas, to protect themselves from an approaching tornado. They ended up getting extremely lucky (the tornado didn’t hit the overpass directly), and surviving with only minor wounds. The footage captured by the aforementioned camera crew was broadcast around the world, leading many to believe that highway overpasses were safe places to hide in the event of a tornado. Listen closely: Do not do this. Tornadic wind speeds increase with height, and the ground underneath a highway overpass is elevated just enough to make it an absolute death trap.
3. You Can Escape In A Vehicle
If you don’t have the underground bunker most tornado-safety articles assume you have, escaping the twister in a car might seem like a very appealing option. You’ve seen news footage of twisters, and to be honest – they don’t look like they’re moving that fast. You could easily outrun it in a car, right?
The truth is – and you’ve probably figured it out by now – no, you can’t. Trying to outrun a tornado in a car is one of the worst possible things you can attempt. For one thing, a tornado can move much faster than you think it can.
They’re also extremely, dangerously unpredictable – a twister might be going in the opposite direction of you one second, only to switch directions and come barrelling towards you the next. Now imagine trying to out-maneuver that in a car. You’d end up flipping end over end and smashing into a tree. Lastly, you have to remember that a tornado is probably only one symptom in a severe thunderstorm. There’s probably torrential rain, hail, and possibly debris from the tornado, all flying around making driving conditions unbearable. Now imagine trying to stay calm during all this.