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Tornado Myths

Know the difference between tornado fact and fiction?  Test your knowledge of common myths about tornadoes.

MYTH #1: TORNADOES ALWAYS ROTATE COUNTERCLOCKWISE

FACT: Winds in the atmosphere determine which way tornadoes spin. The storms mostly spin counterclockwise north of the Equator, resulting in the majority of tornadoes rotating counterclockwise. The opposite happens in the Southern Hemisphere, with giant thunderstorms spinning mainly clockwise.

MYTH #2: MOBILE HOMES ATTRACT TORNADOES

FACT: Although about half of all people recently killed by tornadoes were in or near mobile homes, they do not attract tornadoes. Mobile homes are fragile and susceptible to even the weakest tornadoes, but they have no effect on the twister's direction.

 MYTH #3: OPENING YOUR WINDOWS TO EQUALIZE PRESSURE WILL MINIMIZE DESTRUCTION

FACT: Opening or closing your windows has no effect on the amount of damage a tornado will do. Opening windows can actually let in high-speed winds or debris.


MYTH #4: BRIDGES AND OVERPASSES OFFER SAFE SHELTER FROM TORNADOES

FACT: Bridges and overpasses are extremely unsafe when seeking shelter from a tornado. Experts advise people to avoid these structures during tornadoes or severe weather.

MYTH #5: THE LARGER THE TORNADO, THE STRONGER IT WILL BE

FACT: A tornado's size and shape has nothing to do with how strong it will be or how much damage it will cause. Rope tornadoes - skinny, snake-like tornadoes - can cause EF5 damage, and sometimes wedge tornadoes - wide tornadoes - may cause only EF1 damage.

MYTH #6: TORNADOES NEVER STRIKE BIG CITIES

FACT: Tornadoes are not picky about the areas they hit. Tornadoes have hit many major cities including Oklahoma City, Miami, Waco, Fort Worth and St. Louis.

MYTH #7: CERTAIN TOWNS ARE "PROTECTED" AGAINST TORNADOES

FACT: Just because a town has not been hit by a tornado in the last several hundred years doesn't mean it is immune to tornadoes. Strong tornadoes can easily cross rivers, mountains, and canyons.

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