Science, Tech, Math › Science 7 Biggest Tornado Safety Myths and Misconceptions Share Flipboard Email Print Ryan McGinnis/Getty Images Science Weather & Climate Storms & Other Phenomena Understanding Your Forecast Chemistry Biology Physics Geology Astronomy By Tiffany Means Meteorology Expert B.S., Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, University of North Carolina Tiffany Means is a meteorologist and member of the American Meteorological Society who has worked for CNN, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more. our editorial process Tiffany Means Updated February 20, 2019 Numerous misconceptions are floating around about tornadoes, their behavior, and how to be more safe from them. The ideas might sound like great ideas, but be cautious because acting according to some of these myths might increase the danger to you and your family. Here's a look at 7 of the most popular tornado myths you should stop believing. 01 of 07 Tornadoes Have a Season Since tornadoes can form at any time of the year, they don't have a season. Whenever you hear the phrase "tornado season" being used, the person is referring to the two times of the year when tornadoes occur most frequently: the spring and fall. 02 of 07 Opening Windows Equalizes Air Pressure At one time, it was thought that when a tornado (which has very low pressure) neared a house (having higher pressure) the air inside would push outward on its walls, essentially making the house or building "explode." (This is due to air's tendency to travel from areas of higher to lower pressure.) Opening a window was meant to prevent this by equalizing pressure. However, merely opening windows doesn't alleviate this pressure difference. It does nothing except for allowing the wind and debris to enter your house freely. 03 of 07 A Bridge or Overpass Will Protect You According to the National Weather Service, seeking shelter under a highway overpass can be more dangerous than standing in an open field when a tornado is approaching. That's because when a tornado passes over an overpass, its winds whip underneath the bridge's narrow passage creating a "wind tunnel" and increasing wind speed. The increased winds can then easily sweep you out from underneath the overpass and up into the midst of the storm and its debris. If you're in transit when a tornado strikes, the safest option is to find a ditch or other low spot and lie flat in it. 04 of 07 Tornadoes Don't Hit Big Cities Tornadoes can develop anywhere but seem to occur less often in major cities. That's because the percentage of metropolitan areas in the U.S. is significantly less than that of the nation's rural areas. Another reason for this disparity is that the region where tornadoes most often occur (Tornado Alley) contains few large cities. Some notable examples of tornadoes hitting major cities include an EF2 on the Fujita scale that touched down in the Dallas metro area in April 2012, an EF2 that tore through downtown Atlanta in March 2008, and an EF2 that hit the Brooklyn, NY in August 2007. 05 of 07 Tornadoes Don't Happen in the Mountains While it's true that tornadoes are less common over mountainous regions, they still occur there. Some notable mountain tornadoes include the 1987 Teton-Yellowstone F4 tornado that traveled above 10,000 ft (Rocky Mountains) and the EF3 that struck Glade Spring, VA in 2011 (Appalachian Mountains). The reason why mountain tornadoes aren't as frequent has to do with the fact that cooler, more stable air (which isn't favorable for severe weather development) is generally found at higher elevations. Also, storm systems moving from west to east often weaken or break up when they encounter the friction and rough terrain of a mountain's windward side. 06 of 07 Tornadoes Only Move Over Flat Land Just because tornadoes are often observed traveling over miles of flat, open terrain, such as the Great Plains, doesn't mean they can't travel across rugged land or climb to higher elevations (although doing so can weaken them significantly). Tornadoes aren't limited to traveling only on land. They can also move over bodies of water (at which point they become waterspouts). 07 of 07 Seek Shelter in the Southwest Part of Your Home This belief comes from the idea that tornadoes usually arrive from the southwest, in which case the debris will be blown to the northeast. However, tornadoes may arrive from any direction, not just the southwest. Likewise, because tornadic winds are rotating rather than straight-line (straight-line winds would push debris in the same direction as it is blowing—from the southwest and toward the northeast), the strongest winds may also blow from any direction and carry debris to any side of your home. For these reasons, the southwest corner is considered no safer than any other corner.