8 common tornado myths debunked

Wednesday, June 23, 2021
8 common tornado myths debunked
Does Lake Michigan protect Chicago from tornadoes? Our ABC7 meteorologists debunk the most common tornado myths.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As storm cleanup continues in DuPage County, there still seems to be some shock that a EF-3 tornado swept through the western suburbs.

The ABC7 AccuWeather team debunked some of the most common tornado myths heard by our crews covering the aftermath.

Meteorologists Cheryl Scott and Phil Schwarz bust tornado myths so you can stay safe during dangerous weather.

Is it true tornadoes never strike major cities?

NO - Tornadoes can touchdown anywhere. Being in a densely-populated area does not protect you. Major downtowns like Fort Worth, Atlanta and Salt Lake City have all been hit by Tornadoes. Downtown Nashville was hit just in March of 2020 by an EF-3 tornado. And downtown Chicago can be hit by a tornado.

Does the lake protect Chicago from tornadoes?

NO - Tornadoes are possible even up to the lake front and even over the lake. In certain seasons, the cooler water of the lake can help weaken storms as they approach, but every storm setup is different.

If it's raining, is the tornado threat over?

NO - This is a big no. Many tornadoes can be what we call rain-wrapped. That means rain is surrounding the tornado, making it impossible to see.

You can see a tornado at night?

YES - Trained storm spotters watch for flashes of lightning to try and catch a glimpse of the clouds. They can sometimes spot a funnel cloud or tornado with the light from lightning. It's not easy, and many night time tornadoes never get seen.

Sirens going off don't necessarily mean a tornado has been spotted?

NO - The outdoor warning sirens are sounded when an area is placed under a tornado warning. Tornado warnings are issued when a tornado is spotted, or when a tornado is possible by looking at radar. Sirens can also be sounded for an early warning of potentially large hail. The warning sirens are also designed to warn people outside of their home. They are not meant to wake people or alert them inside their homes. You need to have other ways to get warnings inside your home.

You should open your windows if you are in a tornado warning?

NO - This is an old myth. It was believed you needed to equal out the pressure. DO NOT DO THIS. The damage caused by a tornado is done by the wind, not a drop in pressure. There is definitely a drop in pressure, but it is not enough to cause damage. You should not waste the time in opening windows, instead, go right to your safe room.

Sirens or phone alerts are designed to give you an early warning?

YES - Most tornadoes have a lead warning time of 5 to 15 minutes. With technology improvements, that warning time will continue to get longer. But be aware when you have get an alert, you only have minutes to act.

Can cars outrun tornadoes?

NO - In most cases a car can drive faster than a tornado, but some tornadoes can travel faster than 55 mph. Also, in a car you may hit traffic or not have a direct path to get out of the tornado's path. So being in a car during a tornado is dangerous. The best advice is to seek shelter if you can.