Depending on where you live, tornadoes can pose a major risk to property and life. Tornadoes most often occur in the southern and central United States, in an area often known as “Tornado Alley”. The five states most affected by tornadoes are Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Illinois.
Like most natural disasters, tornadoes are more likely to occur at specific times of the year. The most dangerous and widespread tornado season is from early spring through July, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). Also, most tornadoes occur in the evening, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
However, it is possible for tornadoes to strike outside of the regular season. In December 2021, a powerful EF-4 category tornado touched down in Mayfield, Kentucky. The extreme tornado traveled 165.7 miles, with peak winds reaching 190 mph. More than 500 people were injured and 57 deaths were reported.
As tornado season approaches, it is imperative to be prepared for these natural disasters. Preparing for tornadoes can keep your family safe and prevent loss of life. In this guide, we’ll explain some of the most common misconceptions about tornadoes and debunk these myths so you can stay safe during tornado season and beyond.
Common myths about tornadoes
|You can drive faster than a tornado.||Tornadoes can move at over 60 mph. Even if you speed up, a tornado can still lift your car considering the 200 mph wind speed.|
|The best place to shelter is the southwest corner of your basement.||Tornadoes can move in all directions and do not spare southwest locations. experts suggest finding a walled room with no windows on the lowest level of your residence.|
|Opening your windows will depressurize your home.||Nope; This will not be the case. the National Weather Service advises people to move to the lowest floor or lowest interior room and focus on protection from potential flying debris.|
|Taking shelter under an overpass is the safest place to drive during a tornado.||This actually increases your risk. Bridges and overpasses may not be stable and could cause traffic hazards for others on the road. Unexpectedly, parking under an overpass offers less protection against flying debris, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
Viaducts and bridges can also create a wind tunnel, depending on Conscious of the storm. This causes more damage and puts you at greater risk from flying debris.
|Tornadoes cannot cross bodies of water, mountains, or large cities.||They can and they will. experts posit that tornadoes are less likely to form in urban areas, but that tall buildings do not affect a tornado’s path or strength.
As for bodies of water, the 1974 “super outbreak” of tornadoes hit Cincinnati (located near the Ohio River). Some of these tornadoes had a rating of EF-5, which is considered the most destructive tornado by the National Weather Service. Wind speed ranges from 260 to 318 mph.
|The tornado itself is the most dangerous element of the storm.||The Storm Prediction Center says otherwise. Wind speed and storms cause flying debris, which makes tornadoes so deadly and destructive. Being struck by a heavy, flying object is the most dangerous result of a tornado, not the tornado itself.|
|Tornadoes only occur during tornado season.||The tornado that hit Kentucky last December proves that myth wrong. While tornadoes typically form in the spring, outliers can be just as deadly.|
|You can see and hear a tornado before it hits.||Don’t wait to see the funnel or hear the wind to take shelter. Rain or cloud cover can obscure your view of the tornado and give you less time to react. Be vigilant about checking NOAA weather updates and differentiating between tornado watches and tornado warnings.|
|Tornadoes never hit the same place twice.||On the contrary. Tornadoes do what they want, where they want. the NWS found several examples of this, one being in Arkansas, where three separate tornadoes hit the same church on the same day.
Cordell, Kansas was also hit by a tornado on May 20 for three consecutive years (1916, 1917, and 1918).
|If a tornado isn’t coming directly at you, you’re safe.||Tornadoes can change direction at any time. Tornado paths can be unpredictable, so it’s best to be cautious and seek reliable shelter even if you’re not in the direct path of the tornado.|
How to prepare for tornadoes
Despite the danger, there are things you can do to prepare for a tornado. If you own a home in a high tornado risk area, there are a number of preventative steps you can take to protect your property from tornadoes and, more importantly, to keep your loved ones safe when a tornado approaches.
Here are some tips to prepare for tornadoes as we head into tornado season:
Survey your home
Before tornado season, it’s a good idea to inspect your home and look for areas susceptible to tornado damage. Areas you need to focus on include your roof, gutters, windows, and doors. Use the months leading up to tornado season to make upgrades and repairs, if needed.
For example, if you notice your roof showing signs of wear, consider replacing the shingles in the affected areas to prevent leaks. You should have your gutters cleaned and checked that they are attached to the side of your house. It is also important to prune your trees before tornado season. Focus on heavy, low branches that could break off and fall onto the roof or other structures on your property.
Keep your garden clean
Tornado season straddles spring and summer, when you’re more likely to spend time outdoors. If you have outdoor furniture, planters, or a grill outside, consider securing those items, or better yet, bring them inside when you’re done using them.
Tornadoes can strike unexpectedly, which means you may not have time to clean up your yard at the last minute. Loose items in your yard can easily be blown away by high winds and cause damage to your home or neighboring homes.
Stock your emergency kit
If you live in an area where tornadoes or other natural disasters occur frequently, you should have an easily accessible emergency preparedness kit containing the essentials. Your kit should include items such as:
- Battery operated radio
- Extra batteries
- Flash light
- Non-perishable food (for several days)
- Bottled water (for several days)
- Emergency blankets
- First aid kit
- Important Documents
Ideally, you should keep your emergency kit in your safe shelter. Otherwise, make sure it’s easy to grab so you can take it to your shelter in the event of a tornado.
Have a safety plan
The foundation of tornado preparedness is your safety plan. Your tornado safety plan should include instructions on where you and your family will seek shelter if a tornado is likely to pass over your area. Common shelter areas include basements, downstairs bathrooms, or any windowless lower-level area, such as a hallway.
Once you’ve designated your shelter location, make sure everyone in your house knows the plan so you can act quickly. You should also familiarize yourself with how to turn off your utilities, such as gas, electricity, and water, which can help prevent further damage during a tornado.
Make sure your home insurance policy covers damage caused by tornadoes
Most standard home insurance policies include tornado damage as a covered peril. You don’t need to add tornado insurance as a separate policy like you do with flood insurance and earthquake insurance.
However, it’s a good idea to speak with an agent and check that your policy covers damage caused by tornadoes and, if so, how much coverage you have. Here are some of the factors that can affect your level of tornado coverage:
- The value of your home
- The amount of personal property coverage you have
- How likely are tornadoes in your area
If you feel you need more coverage than you already have, you can speak to an agent about increasing your policy limits for additional home or personal property protection. However, keep in mind that your insurance company may limit the amount of coverage you can get for tornadoes, depending on the likelihood of tornadoes in your area.
Pay close attention to local weather updates
When a tornado is expected to approach your area, it is imperative to keep up to date with the local weather forecast. There are a number of places to get weather updates, including your local news station, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and FEMA’s Emergency Alert System. If your smartphone supports emergency weather alerts, make sure you and your family members agree to receive real-time updates.
Most importantly, if a tornado is expected to approach or pass over your area, monitor alerts closely throughout the day. Like all types of weather and natural disasters, tornadoes can strike quickly and at any time, even when they are not expected. It’s important to make sure you and your family have enough time to get to a safe place when a tornado approaches.