Myth vs. fact: Common weather misconceptions and what’s really going on

Weather Specials
John, Calcutta, lightning

Knowing the difference between myths and facts about storms can be life-saving. There are several weather misconceptions that need to be debunked.

MYTH: Opening windows before a tornado hits equalizes the air pressure and prevents the building from exploding.
FACT: Opening the windows may cause damage inside the home. Further, you should be avoiding windows, doors and exterior walls if a tornado is coming. Homes are damaged or destroyed in tornadoes due to the extreme winds or debris within the storm, not because of the air pressure.

MYTH: Highway overpasses are a safe shelter from a tornado.
FACT: An overpass channels the wind from a tornado into a smaller space, making the wind even stronger. Plus, you are elevated above the ground, making you extremely susceptible to being hit by debris caught up in the tornado, which is the cause of most tornado injuries.

MYTH: Your large car, truck or SUV will be fine driving through floodwaters because it is a heavy vehicle.
FACT: This cannot be emphasized enough — NEVER DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED ROADS. Two feet of water is enough to make your car, SUV or pickup truck float.

MYTH: If you’re inside your house, you don’t need to worry about lightning.
FACT: Though it is safer to be inside when storms come, there are still some things to keep in mind. Electricity from a lightning strike can travel through plumbing or electrical wires. When it storms, you should avoid the shower or bathtub, as well as electronics plugged into an electrical outlet. You should also avoid doors and windows because their metal frames are conductors of electricity.

MYTH: If you can hear thunder but it’s not raining yet, you’re safe from lightning.
FACT: If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm that lightning is still a threat. While uncommon, lightning strikes have been known to happen as far as 25 miles away from a storm. These usually originate from high up in a storm cloud and are known as “strikes from the blue” because blue skies are often visible when they occur. You should be moving to a safer shelter, preferably indoors.

MYTH: “Heat lightning” is different from lightning in a thunderstorm.
FACT: “Heat lightning” is lightning. The only difference is you are seeing it from a distance, which is why you can’t hear the thunder. If you see lightning and don’t hear the thunder, the storm is likely far away but could be a sign that storms are headed in your direction.

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