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Tornadoes are rare in Utah, although we have had a few over the years. There are plenty of myths about this weather phenomenon, and some of them are far more harmful than helpful.

Here are some of the most prevalent misconceptions about tornadoes:

  • If a tornado approaches while you are driving, seek shelter under an overpass – This idea is very dangerous. When a tornado moves across an overpass, winds funneled under the bridge will have an increased velocity. It is similar to being caught between two buildings on a windy day with the space between the buildings turning into a wind tunnel. If you are caught in the middle of a tornado, stay inside your car with your seatbelt fastened.
  • Minimize tornado damage to your house by opening all windows before it strikes – The idea behind this fallacy is that opening the windows will make the pressure inside the house be comparable to the pressure outside and prevent the house from exploding. If you open your windows, you could put yourself in the path of flying debris from the tornado. You don’t have to open the windows because homes have the ability to equalize the pressure inside.
  • The shape and size of the tornado determine its strength – The form of the tornado does not indicate its strength. The only way to determine the force of a twister is to measure its velocity.
  • Mobile homes attract tornadoes – Tornadoes are not attracted by anything. They form and travel at their own leisure. People claim that mobile homes attract tornadoes because they are often damaged by twisters. This is not because they are more alluring to tornadoes but because they are more likely to be crushed by their force. Mobile homes are made of lighter materials than standard homes.
  • The safest place inside a house during a tornado is the southwest corner of the basement – There is no truth to this belief. The safest place inside the house during a tornado is an interior room on the lowest floor of the house or building, farthest from the exterior walls and windows.

Don’t get sucked into tornado lore. If you want to stay safe when tornadoes hit, sort fact from fiction and prepare yourself accordingly.