Debunking tornado myths

Weather

Tornadoes are incredible forces of nature that can be visually stunning. But there’s still so much we don’t know about them given the difficulties forecasting them. It’s easy to see why there can be lots of misconceptions and misunderstanding about them. And when a tornado threat is imminent, it’s important to understand as much as you can when every second counts.

Myth: Cities are safe from tornadoes

False. This is a very dangerous assumption. Many cities from Oklahoma City, Dallas, Chicago and even cities like Atlanta have been struck by tornadoes. As recent as this past Sunday, June 20, 2021 an EF-3 tornado struck the Chicago suburb of Woodridge, Il.

Courtesy of NWS Chicago Weather Forecast Office

Myth: Tornadoes don’t form over water

False. Tornadoes can form over and cross bodies of water. The technical term is a “waterspout” and not a tornado. If a waterspout moves on land, the National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning for the impacted area.

Myth: Tornadoes only happen in the springtime

False. Another very dangerous assumption. Tornadoes can (and have) occurred in every month of the year in nearly every state in the United States. On December 26, 2015 an EF-4 tornado touched down just outside of Dallas in the suburb of Rowlett, Texas.

Courtesy of NWS Dallas/Ft. Worth Forecast Office

Myth: Bigger tornadoes cause more damage than smaller ones

False. Large tornadoes do tend to have larger EF scale readings due to their larger circumferences, smaller tornadoes can also cause equivalent damage. A large tornado can form in an open field and only uplift a few trees and snap some power lines, while a small, compact tornado can form over a densely populated city and cause millions of dollars in damage.

Myth: Tornadoes only happen in certain parts of the country

False. While a majority of them do occur in the same areas such as the Great Plains and the Deep South, every state in the United States has reports of tornadoes.

Courtesy of NOAA

Myth: Tornadoes target mobile home parks

False. Mobile home parks may seem like they get targeted by tornadoes, but it’s mainly because they typically see the worst impacts from them compared to other structures. An EF-0 with windspeeds of 105 to 137 mph can cause moderate to serious damage to a mobile home, while a home built on a foundation may only suffer minor damage.

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