Illustrated tornado from the book The Wizard of Oz
© W. R. Wright, Piglet Press Inc. (www.halcyon.com/piglet/)

Common Tornado Myths

Scientists once thought that you should open your windows during a tornado so your house won't explode. The thinking behind this idea is that the extreme low pressure in a tornado would cause the air in your house to explode. Opening your windows would let the air expand without damaging your house. As it turns out, houses aren't as sealed as they thought so the air would have no problem getting out. It turns out that the strong winds associated with a tornado can lift the roof off a house. Without the support of the roof, the wall are blown down and they fall outward. The roof may be dropped back on the rubble or some place nearby. This gives the impression that the house exploded.

Another common myth was that places were "protected" by a mountain or a river. In reality, no place is safe. While weak tornadoes may not be able to crest mountains or jump rivers, the strong ones can. Another problem is the infrequentness with which tornadoes occur. People in a town can draw a conclusion that since no tornadoes have ever come through the town but a couple have happened right outside of town, then they must be protected. The topic here is not protection; it's probability. A town is small while the surrounding countryside "outside of town" is large. Chances are that a tornado would strike in the larger area rather than the smaller one. This can be a problem because people won't take shelter if they think they're already safe.

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