The emergency alert just appeared on your phone. The sky is turning dark and the wind is getting unbearable. A massive column of air is spinning its way toward you. You go to grab your car keys to make a quick getaway, but you might have just made the biggest mistake of your life. Tornadoes are one of Earth’s most violent forces of nature. They can form within seconds and destroy everything in their path. About 1,200 twisters will touch down in the U.S. every year, and unfortunately, about 80 people are killed. To avoid being part of that statistic, today we’ll show you the five things you absolutely shouldn’t do during one of these storms. Why shouldn’t you get in the bathtub? Which part of your house is the safest? And how could a ditch save your life?
Number 5: Don’t Stay in Your Car
Tornadoes can move at speeds of up to 97 km/h (60 mph), which means you aren’t outrunning one. But don’t hop in your car to evacuate. That could be a potentially deadly mistake. If you get caught in a vehicle when the raging winds start, drive to the closest shelter. Never take cover under an overpass or bridge. They can become like a tunnel that provides a free pass for the intense wind to blow debris or suck you in. You’re better off laying flat in a low-lying area like a ditch or a ravine. You’ll be less likely to be hit by flying stuff or get pulled into the vortex.
Number 4: Don’t Get in the Bathtub
If you live in a place where tornadoes are common, you might have heard that a bathtub is a safe place to outwait the strong winds, but that’s just a myth. Tubs can be flimsy and won’t provide good protection. This is especially a bad idea if it’s located near an outside wall or window. When a tornado strikes, you’ll want to put as many walls as possible between you it.
Number 3: Don’t Ignore Warnings
In December 2021, a deadly twister swept through several states in the U.S. One of those was Illinois, where six warehouse workers died when their building was destroyed. They were told to continue working despite the tornado alerts being posted. It’s essential that you take official emergency weather updates seriously and if your employers don’t, ignoring your boss might save your life.
Number 2: Don’t Open Windows
Another myth is that opening up the windows during a twister can prevent a house from being blown apart. The misconception comes from the belief that the extreme low pressure that accompanies a tornado will impact a building less if you allow equalization between the inside and outside. And if you leave the windows closed, this pressure would cause the higher pressure inside the house to push violently outward. However, researchers determined that even when windows were open, the overpowering force of a tornado could still push on the roof of a building and lift it. When a tornado warning is issued, you should run for shelter. Do not waste precious time opening windows.
Number 1: Don’t Pick the Wrong Side
Tornadoes commonly travel from a southwest direction. You might think that the southwest corner of your house is the best place to hide since some people believe debris will be dumped into the northeast corner, but this isn’t necessarily true. Objects and debris can get thrown in every direction, no matter where the twister is approaching from. Don’t pass up a sturdier place in the house just because it is not in the southwest corner. The basement or rooms without windows are the safest places in your home until the storm passes.
- Where Tornadoes Happen (2022). Center for Science Education.
- Tornadoes (2022). Government of Canada.
- Do tornadoes always move from west to east?. Kershner, K. (2022). How Stuff Works.
- Amazon criticised over safety at tornado-hit warehouse. Hooker, L. (2021). BBC News
- See Why An Overpass DOESN’T Make A Good Tornado Shelter!. Lynnette (2022). Weather Tips Guide.