The Top 5 Tornado Myths

We’re honestly not sure where these all started.

As is often the case, myths and misconceptions often swirl around and ransack the truth from time to time. It’s up to us to spot them, prepare for them, and better yet - seek to understand them so that they can fade away. 

First, some tornado truths:

They appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach up to 300 miles per hour! 

While twisters have hit all 50 states, they happen most commonly in the plains regions between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. That means states like South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota are hardest hit.

If you live there, always be on the lookout for dark or greenish skies, large hail, low-lying clouds, or a loud roar that sounds like a freight train. And while they can occur at any time of the day, between 3pm and 9pm is their favorite time to show up and ruin your day!

And now, here are some almost-hilarious falsehoods about tornadoes we’ve overheard way too often:

1. “Don’t be crazy. Tornadoes can’t cross lakes, large rivers or wide bodies of water.”

Nope! Tornadoes are actually crazy enough to hit water.

Tornadoes that form on land can cross bodies of water, including rivers and lakes. Tornadoes can also form on water. These tornadoes are called “waterspouts.” Moral of the story: Never think that a body of water will protect you from a tornado.

2. “We’re fine. Tornadoes never strike the same area twice.”

Oh yes they do! 

Tornadoes can strike any area at any time, regardless of past history. For instance, Cordell, Kansas was hit by tornadoes on the same day, May 20, three years in a row. Also, three different tornadoes hit the same church in Guy, Arkansas on the same day.

3. “There’s a reason I moved to the big city. No tornadoes!”

Nope, sorry! Big cities can mean big tornadoes too.

Tornadoes can hit anywhere at any time. Several large cities have been hit by tornadoes throughout history, including Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis

4. “I don’t think you’ve seen how fast my car is. I can out-drive a tornado any day!”

Oh no you can’t! 

Do not try to outdrive a tornado, as they can travel well over 60 mph, and cars can easily be lifted or blown over by the storm. 

5. “Oh good, there’s an overpass. The best protection from a tornado while in my car is always hiding under an overpass.”

Hmm, Bad idea. Don’t do that.

Hiding under an overpass will put you at even more risk. The structure of the overpass may not be stable, and hiding under an overpass also increases your risk of being hit by flying debris.

Learn more tips on how to prepare for tornadoes in the harbor app!