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Wind Risk Facts

On this page, we are focused on dispelling myths surrounding extreme wind events like derechos and tornadoes. As we delve into each misconception, detailed explanations supported by scientific knowledge are provided to help you gain a deeper understanding of the reality of extreme wind events.

From common beliefs about the strength of buildings to misconceptions surrounding evacuation strategies, we will explore a wide range of topics related to extreme wind events. By shedding light on the truth, we aim to equip you with accurate information, empowering you to make informed decisions and take appropriate precautions during these hazardous weather conditions.

Armed with the knowledge to discern fact from fiction, you can better protect yourself, your family, and your property. We encourage you to explore our collection of myth-busting articles, helpful tips, and practical guides, so you can be well-prepared and confident in the face of these natural forces.

Remember, preparation is key. By staying informed and debunking myths, you can effectively implement safety measures, make informed decisions during evacuations, and foster a culture of resilience in your community. Together, we can navigate through extreme wind events with confidence and prioritize the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

On this page you will find Wind Risk Facts.

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Wind Risk Facts

Tornadoes and hurricanes are the same thing.

While both tornadoes and hurricanes are powerful weather phenomena, they are distinct from each other.

Tornadoes are intense, localized columns of air that rotate violently around a small area, typically forming from severe thunderstorms. While they are smaller in scale than hurricanes, they can still be extremely destructive.

Hurricanes, on the other hand, are large-scale tropical cyclones that form over warm ocean waters. They are characterized by a well-defined eye and spiral bands of thunderstorms that rotate around the eye. Hurricanes are much larger and have longer durations than tornadoes. Here are some key distinctions to consider:

Size and Scale: Tornadoes and hurricanes differ significantly in terms of their size and scale. Tornadoes are small atmospheric vortices that typically have a diameter of a few hundred feet to a mile, with the most extreme tornadoes reaching up to a couple of miles in width. In contrast, hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones or typhoons, are large-scale systems that span hundreds of miles in diameter, encompassing a vast area of the ocean and the atmosphere.

Formation: Tornadoes and hurricanes form through different processes. Tornadoes are typically created by severe thunderstorms and result from the interaction between warm, moist air from the surface and strong, cooler atmospheric wind shear. These localized, intense rotating columns of air form vertically within thunderstorms and extend downward to the ground. On the other hand, hurricanes form over warm ocean waters when conditions are conducive to the development of a low-pressure system with sustained winds exceeding 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour).

Duration and Lifespan: Tornadoes and hurricanes also differ in terms of their duration and lifespan. Tornadoes are relatively short-lived, typically lasting from a few minutes to a few hours. They often form and dissipate rapidly, making them highly localized and transient weather events. In contrast, hurricanes are long-lasting, persistent storms that can endure for several days or even weeks. They undergo various stages of development, intensification, and eventual dissipation, often lasting for multiple days as they travel across large distances.

Impact and Damage: Tornadoes and hurricanes have distinct impact and potential for damage. Tornadoes are known for their intense, localized destruction. They can produce extremely strong winds, sometimes exceeding 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour), which can result in severe damage to structures and infrastructure within a small area. The concentrated damage path of a tornado can be narrow but devastating. In contrast, hurricanes have a broader impact, affecting a much larger area. They bring not only strong winds but also heavy rainfall, storm surge, and the potential for widespread flooding. The combined effects of these hazards can lead to significant damage to coastal areas and inland regions in the path of a hurricane.

Predictability and Tracking: Tornadoes and hurricanes also differ in terms of their predictability and tracking. While meteorologists have made significant advancements in tornado prediction and warning systems, tornadoes are still generally more challenging to forecast accurately. They can form rapidly and without much warning, making real-time monitoring and detection crucial for issuing timely tornado warnings. In contrast, hurricanes can be tracked for days or even weeks in advance using advanced meteorological models and satellite technology, allowing for more extended preparation time and the issuance of advance warnings and watches for coastal areas.

While tornadoes and hurricanes share some similarities in terms of their association with strong winds and storms, they are distinct weather phenomena with notable differences in size, formation, duration, impact, predictability, and tracking. Understanding these differences is important for accurately interpreting weather information, preparedness efforts, and response strategies related to tornadoes and hurricanes.

Tornadoes always appear with a visible funnel cloud.

While many tornadoes are associated with a visible funnel cloud, not all tornadoes display this feature.

Some tornadoes are obscured by rain or occur at night, making them difficult to spot visually. These hidden tornadoes, known as “rain-wrapped” or “nocturnal” tornadoes, can be particularly dangerous because they are harder to detect until they are very close. There are two main reasons why a tornado may not have a visible funnel cloud:

Rain-Wrapped Tornadoes: Some tornadoes occur within heavy rainfall or thunderstorm activity which can obscure the funnel cloud. These tornadoes are often referred to as “rain-wrapped” tornadoes. The heavy precipitation wraps around the rotating column of air, making it difficult to see the funnel. These types of tornadoes can be particularly dangerous because they are harder to spot visually, and their presence may only be indicated by other signs, such as strong winds, flying debris, or a persistent rotating wall cloud.

Nocturnal Tornadoes: Tornadoes that occur at night pose an additional challenge for visibility. In the absence of daylight, it becomes even more challenging to spot a tornado’s funnel cloud. Instead, people may rely on lightning flashes or power flashes caused by the tornado’s impact on electrical infrastructure to indicate the tornado’s presence. Doppler radar and advanced weather monitoring systems play a crucial role in detecting and tracking these nocturnal tornadoes. Nocturnal tornadoes are more than twice as likely to be deadly versus a visible tornado that occurs during the day.

It is important to note that even if a tornado’s funnel cloud is not visible, the associated weather conditions and signs of severe rotation should be taken seriously. Other indications of a tornado’s presence include a rotating wall cloud, intense wind gusts, a loud roaring noise similar to a freight train, and the sudden change in atmospheric pressure. Paying attention to weather alerts, utilizing weather radar, and following the guidance of local authorities are crucial for tornado safety, regardless of whether the funnel cloud is visible.

Tornadoes only occur during the spring.

Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and in all seasons.

Tornadoes have been observed in all seasons, including winter and fall. While the frequency and distribution of tornadoes may vary throughout the year, it is important to be prepared and stay alert to severe weather conditions regardless of the season. Here are some factors to consider:

Seasonal Variations: While tornadoes are most prevalent during the spring in areas like Tornado Alley in the United States, the peak tornado season can vary depending on the region. Tornadoes have been observed in every season and can occur during the winter, fall, and summer months as well.

Climatic Conditions: Tornado formation requires specific atmospheric conditions, including the presence of warm, moist air colliding with cooler, drier air. These conditions can occur throughout the year, depending on the local climate and geographical factors.

It is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of tornado safety measures and preparedness throughout the year, not just during the traditional spring tornado season. Stay informed about local weather conditions, heed tornado warnings and watches, and have a plan in place for seeking shelter in the event of a tornado, regardless of the season and your location.

The eye of a hurricane is a safe area.

The eye is a temporary respite as the hurricane’s circulation passes over a particular location. As the hurricane moves, so does the location of the eye.

The eye of a hurricane can be a relatively clear area surrounded by the eyewall, but it is not a safe place to be during a storm. It is crucial to remember that once the eye passes over a location, the storm resumes with strong winds and dangerous conditions from the opposite direction. Venturing out in the eye can expose you to the full force of the hurricane and put you at risk. It is important to understand the eye of a hurricane is not a safe zone and can be misleading. Here are some factors to consider:

Eyewall: The eye of a hurricane is surrounded by the eyewall, which is the region of the storm with the most intense winds, rain, and storm surge. The eyewall is where the strongest winds and most severe weather conditions occur. These winds can reach extremely high speeds, often exceeding 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) or more. Venturing into the eyewall can put you at significant risk by exposing you to dangerous winds, flying debris, and heavy rainfall.

Rapid Changes: The calm conditions experienced in the eye of a hurricane are temporary and can change rapidly. The eye is formed due to the storm’s rotational pattern, and as the hurricane moves forward, the eye will eventually pass over your location. Once the eye moves away, the storm’s backside will follow with strong winds and severe weather conditions. This sudden shift can catch people off guard and lead to injuries or worse if they are not adequately prepared.

Storm Surge: Storm surge is the abnormal rise in sea level during a hurricane and can be extremely dangerous. The most significant storm surge typically occurs near the eyewall and the front-right quadrant of a hurricane (relative to its forward motion). Being in the eye does not protect you from storm surge, as the surge can still affect coastal areas surrounding the eye. In fact, the sudden and forceful return of water during the passage of the eyewall can be particularly hazardous.

Tornadoes: Hurricanes often spawn tornadoes, particularly in the bands of thunderstorms outside the eye. These tornadoes can form quickly and without much warning, posing an additional threat to those in the vicinity of the hurricane. It is crucial to remain indoors and follow tornado safety procedures if tornado warnings are issued, even if you are in the eye of the hurricane.

In summary, while the eye of a hurricane may offer a temporary break from the storm’s most severe conditions, it is not a safe area. The eye is surrounded by the dangerous eyewall, and the calmness is deceptive and temporary. It is crucial to stay informed about the storm’s movement, heed evacuation orders, and seek shelter in secure locations away from the hurricane’s path to ensure your safety during a hurricane.

Opening all doors and windows can prevent a house from being destroyed by a hurricane or tornado.

Opening doors and windows during a hurricane or tornado can increase the chances of significant damage and compromise the structural integrity of your home.

This myth is not only false but dangerous. Strong winds can enter through open doors and windows, exerting pressure on the inside of the house and potentially causing it to collapse. It is essential to keep all doors and windows closed and securely sealed during a hurricane or tornado to protect yourself and your property. Here are some additional factors to consider:

Increased Risk of Structural Damage: Opening doors and windows during a hurricane or tornado can actually increase the risk of structural damage to your home. They both generate extremely powerful winds that can enter through openings, including doors and windows. The wind entering the house creates higher internal pressure, increasing the strain on the structure. This increased pressure can cause windows to shatter, doors to be forcefully blown open or closed, and even lead to the collapse of walls or the roof. Keeping doors and windows closed and properly secured is crucial to maintaining the integrity of your home during a hurricane.

Enhanced Vulnerability to Debris: Opening doors and windows exposes your home to the risk of flying debris. During a hurricane or tornado, debris such as tree branches, roof tiles, and other objects can be picked up by the high-speed winds and become dangerous projectiles. These projectiles can cause severe damage to your home, endangering your safety. Keeping doors and windows closed and secured helps to create a barrier against flying debris and provides better protection for you and your property.

Water Intrusion: Hurricanes are often accompanied by heavy rainfall and storm surges, leading to flooding and water intrusion. Opening doors and windows can allow water to enter your home, leading to extensive damage to your belongings and compromising the structural integrity of the building. It is crucial to keep all openings sealed and watertight during a hurricane to minimize the risk of water damage.

Safe Shelter Alternatives: Instead of opening doors and windows, it is essential to seek safe shelter during a hurricane. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, identify and prepare a designated safe room or storm shelter in your home. This room should have no windows or exterior doors and be located on the lowest level of your home, away from potential hazards. Alternatively, if evacuation orders are issued, follow the instructions of local authorities and seek shelter in designated evacuation centers or shelters.

Remember, the key to protecting your home and yourself during a hurricane is to keep all doors and windows closed and securely sealed. Focus on fortifying your home, securing loose outdoor objects, and following official guidance and evacuation orders to ensure your safety and minimize the risk of damage.

Hurricanes only impact coastal areas.

Hurricanes can travel inland and cause significant damage hundreds of miles away from the coast.

While coastal areas are more commonly affected by hurricanes due to their proximity to the ocean, it is incorrect to assume that hurricanes exclusively impact coastal regions. They can bring heavy rainfall, strong winds, and tornadoes that affect both coastal and inland communities. It is important for people living in non-coastal areas to be prepared and informed about hurricane risks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their property. Here are some additional factors to consider:

Inland Effects: Hurricanes are massive weather systems that can extend far beyond the coastline. As hurricanes move inland, they can still maintain significant strength and unleash a wide range of hazards. Strong winds, torrential rainfall, and the potential for tornadoes can extend for hundreds of miles from the coast, impacting communities well beyond coastal areas. These inland effects can lead to extensive damage to infrastructure, property, and pose risks to human life.

Heavy Rainfall and Flooding: Hurricanes are known for their heavy rainfall, which can cause devastating flooding. Even if a hurricane’s center stays offshore or tracks along the coast, the outer rain bands can extend inland and produce copious amounts of rainfall over an extended period. This can lead to flash flooding, river flooding, and the inundation of low-lying areas, even in regions far from the coast. Inland flooding can be particularly dangerous, as it can catch people off guard and result in swift, powerful currents that can sweep away vehicles and pose significant threats to life and property.

Damaging Winds: Hurricanes are characterized by their strong, sustained winds. While the highest wind speeds are typically found near the hurricane’s eye and eyewall, the effects of these powerful winds can extend well inland. As hurricanes make landfall or move over land, they can maintain hurricane or tropical storm strength, causing widespread wind damage. Toppled trees, downed power lines, and structural damage can occur in both coastal and inland areas, affecting communities far from the coast.

Economic Impact: The impact of hurricanes extends beyond immediate coastal areas due to the interconnectedness of regional economies. Disruptions caused by a hurricane, such as damage to infrastructure, power outages, and interrupted transportation systems, can have a cascading effect on industries and communities located inland. For example, agricultural areas, manufacturing hubs, and inland cities that rely on coastal ports for trade can experience economic consequences from a hurricane, even without a direct coastal impact.

Understanding that hurricanes can impact inland areas is crucial for preparedness and response efforts. It is important for individuals and communities located away from the coast to stay informed about hurricane threats, have a plan in place, and follow guidance from local authorities. By being proactive and prepared, everyone can reduce the risks associated with hurricanes, regardless of their distance from the coastline.

Taking shelter under a highway overpass provides a safe refuge during extreme winds.

Overpasses can act as wind tunnels and intensify wind speeds and forces.

Seeking shelter under a highway overpass during extreme winds, such as a tornado or severe thunderstorm, is not a safe option. The structure itself may not provide sufficient protection from flying debris and the destructive forces of extreme winds. Additionally, taking shelter under an overpass can impede the flow of traffic and hinder emergency response efforts. It is important to follow official guidance during extreme wind events, such as seeking shelter in sturdy buildings or designated storm shelters that are specifically designed and constructed to withstand high winds. Here are some additional factors to consider:

Wind Tunnel Effect: Highway overpasses are elevated structures that act as wind tunnels during extreme winds. When strong winds encounter the walls of an overpass, they can be compressed and accelerated, causing the wind speeds to increase significantly. This wind tunnel effect can create even higher wind velocities under the overpass, making it dangerous for individuals seeking shelter.

Debris Hazard: During severe wind events, such as tornadoes or hurricanes, debris is often present in the air. Taking shelter under a highway overpass does not provide adequate protection from flying debris. The winds can propel large and dangerous objects, such as tree branches, metal fragments, or even entire vehicles, into and under the overpass. This poses a significant risk to anyone seeking shelter there, potentially leading to severe injury or death.

Structural Integrity: While highway overpasses are designed to withstand the weight of vehicles and the forces of traffic, they are not specifically engineered to withstand the extreme forces generated by tornadoes or other severe wind events. Overpasses can be vulnerable to structural damage or collapse during such events, especially if the winds are strong enough to compromise their integrity. Seeking shelter under an overpass exposes individuals to the risk of being struck by falling debris or being directly exposed to the damaging winds.

Traffic and Emergency Access: Taking shelter under a highway overpass during extreme winds can impede the flow of traffic and hinder emergency response efforts. Overpasses are designed for the passage of vehicles, and seeking shelter there can create congestion and block emergency vehicles from reaching affected areas. It is important to keep roadways clear and allow emergency personnel to navigate freely during severe weather events.

Instead of seeking shelter under a highway overpass during extreme winds, it is crucial to follow official guidance and seek safer alternatives. The most appropriate course of action is to find a sturdy, well-constructed building or a designated storm shelter that is specifically designed and engineered to withstand extreme winds. These shelters are built with reinforced materials and provide a higher level of protection against flying debris and structural failure.Bottom of Form


In conclusion, debunking myths surrounding tornadoes and derechos is vital for fostering a better understanding of these natural disasters and promoting effective preparedness. By dispelling these myths, we empower individuals to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their communities. This includes having a well-defined emergency plan, staying informed through reliable sources, and understanding the specific risks and vulnerabilities of their geographical location., Individuals can better respond to the challenges posed by tornadoes and hurricanes by being prepared and knowledgeable, thereby minimizing the potential for loss of life and property.

It is important to remember that tornadoes and hurricanes are unpredictable and powerful forces of nature. While accurate information and debunking myths are essential, they should always be complemented by staying informed through official weather updates and heeding the instructions of local authorities during severe weather events.

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