Now that the tornado season is here again, experts warn those residing in states with a high incidence of tornadoes to follow the safety rules and reduce chances of injury or death.
It's good advice, and even those who are rarely in danger of being hit by a tornado should know how to deal with one of the deadliest weather phenomena Mother Nature can throw your way.
But there are five common myths about tornadoes that can get you into trouble or even land you in the hospital—or worse. You should know them and avoid them. Here they are:
Myth 1: The downtown section of major cities, large lakes, big rivers and mountainous regions are relatively 'safe harbors,' protected from tornadoes.
Tornadoes can strike anywhere. They have hit downtown Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and New York. Yellowstone National Park was once struck by a series of tornadoes that created a trail of destruction across a 10,000-foot mountain.
Myth 2: If you spot a tornado approaching you while driving, steer your vehicle onto a road that runs at right angles to the storm.
Doing that can be deadly. Forget right angles and trying to out-drive a tornado. They can zigzag back and forth, pick up and set down again, or be almost one mile wide. Find shelter immediately—even a ditch is better than staying in your vehicle. Many people are injured or killed attempting to race away from, or wait out, a passing tornado.
Myth 3: If you see a tornado while caught in the open, seek shelter under a viaduct or highway overpass.
Weather experts urge you to find shelter in a reinforced building, if possible. Viaducts, ditches, culverts and overpasses will provide you with some protection, but a strong building is your safest refuge.
Myth 4: Waterspouts cannot move onto land
Waterspouts over large lakes or ocean coastal areas can and have moved onto land, sometimes causing major damage. A case in point was the water spout that developed during an intense thunderstorm over the Atlantic Ocean just offshore of Miami. After crossing the water it made landfall and damaged beachfront homes and businesses.
Myth 5: If you are indoors and see a tornado approaching, open all the windows to equalize the inside and outside pressure and minimize storm damage.
Forget about the windows! Your home's windows and furnishings—even your house—can be replaced. Your life cannot be replaced. When a tornado approaches seek immediate shelter.
A few tornado facts:
• Although they occur in many regions of the world, tornadoes strike in the U.S. More than any other country.
• Tornadoes can generate winds in excess of 250 mph; some have been measured well over 300 mph.
• Tornadoes can be more than a mile wide and stay on the ground for more than 100 miles.
• Tornadoes can occur all year long, not only between March through November.
• The typical tornado travels from southwest to northeast, but don't count on that. They've been known to move in any direction.
• Although the classic "twister" is most likely to strike from three to six p.m., be aware they can occur at any time