Test Your Storm Knowledge: Debunking Common Tornado Myths

A massive tornado rampages across a grassy plain in the Midwest
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A number of amateur storm chasers quickly find out that the myths they might believe about tornadoes are false when faced with a real storm.

If you’re an enthusiast about storm chasing or tornadoes, you should take this chance to test your knowledge. Do you know about these common tornado myths?

Tornadoes Can’t Cross Water

A particularly stubborn tornado myth holds that tornadoes can’t cross bodies of water, like rivers or lakes. Where this myth comes from is unclear, though it bears some resemblance to folks wisdom about vampires being unable to cross moving water. What is clear, however, is how untrue this particular myth is.

Tornadoes are able to pass over bodies of water with no issue. In fact, this is how waterspouts form. Waterspouts, also known as water twisters or water tornadoes, are tornadoes that have crossed over a body of water and absorbed the moisture into their funnels, becoming even more dangerous in the process.

Your Car Can Outrun a Tornado

Many amateur storm chasers are under the assumption that their vehicle can outrun a tornado. However, this isn’t true at all: tornadoes can move well in excess of 60 MPH, and they are often hard to predict when it comes to sudden turns in their path. If you see a tornado, it can be upon you faster than your car can move.

In the event you find yourself in a car near a tornado, your best option is to pull your car off the road and find shelter. In the absence of shelter, look for a ditch to lie in and cover your head with your hands until the tornado passes.

The Funnel Is the Most Dangerous Part of the Storm

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a storm chaser is assuming that the funnel of the twister itself is the most dangerous part of the storm. This isn’t remotely true. While the tornado itself is dangerous, to be sure, it’s not nearly the same threat to you as the flying debris picked up by the high winds

When a tornado is nearby, you should try to seek shelter in a sturdy building or underground, if you’re able to. Flying debris can be moving at speeds that make impact deadly, and being out in the open near the storm increases your chances of being struck.

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Written by
Jeremy Liu

Jeremy Liu has always been fascinated by extreme weather—but he prefers to write about the world’s deadliest storms from the safety and comfort of his home office. He’s much less likely to get hit with a flying cow that way. (And yes, Jeremy’s favorite movie is Twister.)

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Written by Jeremy Liu