Debunking tornado safety myths

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ST. LOUIS – Severe Weather Preparedness Week means it’s time to get your tornado safety plans in place. But don’t be fooled by the many myths that circulate around this topic.

Myth 1. Opening windows will equalize the pressure

Don’t do this! Opening windows is a waste of time when you should be getting into your tornado safe spot. If your house is in a tornado, the debris will most likely break the windows out anyway.

Myth 2. Seek shelter in the southwest corner of your basement

This myth started because of the misconception that tornadoes come from the southwest so debris would fall in the northeast corner of your home. For starters, tornadoes can come from any direction. Also, winds spin around the tornado and can blow debris in any direction.

The bottom line? Get to the basement or lowest level of your home. Get away from windows and move to an interior room. It’s best if you can get under a workbench or cover your head with a blanket. A bicycle or any other helmet can also be used to protect your head.

Myth 3. If you’re on the road, seek shelter under a bridge or overpass

This is perhaps the most dangerous of tornado safety myths. Do not seek shelter under a bridge or overpass. Research has found that winds are funneled into those spaces and actually increase. Also, you are not protected from flying debris in those areas.

Myth 4. Tornadoes can’t cross rivers or hills

Tornadoes have no problems crossing rivers or moving over hills. In fact, the Good Friday tornado that hit St. Louis-Lambert Airport on April 22, 2011 crossed the Mississippi River.

Myth 5. Tornadoes don’t hit big cities

False. St. Louis has been hit multiple times. In fact, the third most deadly tornado in the country struck St. Louis on May 27, 1896. This tornado did damage on both sides of the Mississippi River. Other major metropolitan areas that have been hit by a tornado include Dallas, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City.

With spring around the corner, gather your family and make an emergency plan before severe weather hits.

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