GREENSBORO, N.C. — On the one-year anniversary of the EF-2 Greensboro tornado, which caused extensive damage in the Triad, our VERIFY team busts tornado myths and verifies the facts to keep families safe this severe weather season.

VERIFY QUESTION 1: Is it true tornadoes do not hit big cities?

VERIFY SOURCE

  • Meteorologist Terran Kirksey
  • Weather Underground

VERIFY PROCESS

The sources agree this is false. Tornadoes can hit big cities -- they're just less common, statistically, simply because of space. Cities are small, compared to their rural surroundings, but they can happen. 

In 1995, an EF-5 tore through Oklahoma City. In 2007, an EF-2 crossed through Atlanta. More recently, in 2011, an EF-4 traveled from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, and an EF-5 destroyed Joplin, Mo.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

Bottom line: tall buildings and other infrastructure do not divert tornadoes. Tornadoes can happen in cities, so whether you live in a downtown sky rise or farmhouse in the county, you need to know your safe place. 

VERIFY QUESTION 2: Is it true a hurricane can spin faster than a tornado?

VERIFY SOURCE

  • Meteorologist Eric Chilton

VERIFY PROCESS

Chilton explained this answer using an analogy -- a figure skater. Imagine a single figure skater is the tornado, and a group of skaters is a hurricane. The single skater -- the tornado -- can spin a lot faster on her own than when she locks hands with a line of skaters, the hurricane. 

A low-grade EF-0 tornado records three-second gust speeds between 65 to 85 miles per hour. EF-5s can spin 200 or more miles per hour. Compare those to hurricanes. A category one has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour. A category five has sustained winds of 157 or more miles per hour.

The hurricane with the fastest wind speed on record was Hurricane Allen in 1980, which had sustained winds of 190 miles per hour.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

It's true -- some hurricanes are strong enough to reach tornado wind speeds, but generally, tornadoes spin much faster.

VERIFY QUESTION 3: Is it true you should open your window to avoid damage during a tornado?

VERIFY SOURCE

  • National Weather Service
  • NOAA

VERIFY PROCESS

The answer is flat-out false. A tornado is too strong to allow for any equalizing of pressure. It's probably going to destroy your windows, so you don't want to be anywhere near them. That is why you need to go to the lowest and innermost room of your house.

Scientists now believe a solid structure with no open windows or doors is the safest place and the most likely to avoid major damage.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

Opening a window during a tornado cannot prevent damage, and you are wasting valuable time getting to safety.

VERIFY QUESTION 4: Is it true you should stay in your car and park beneath an overpass if caught driving in a tornado?

VERIFY SOURCE

  • National Weather Service

VERIFY PROCESS

The National Weather Service says the answer is false, in most situations. First, if you are paying attention to tornado watches and warnings, you won't be on the road when a twister touches down.

If you are caught in that unfortunate predicament, quickly assess the situation. The National Weather Service says if you have a clear path on which to drive away from the direction of a tornado, then do so. Then, try to seek shelter in a substantial building nearby. 

If you cannot escape the path of the tornado, do not stay in your car, as it can become a flying projectile. 

If you think parking beneath an underpass will help, it won't. Tornado winds can accelerate as they blow through the underpass. Your best chance, in this case, is to abandon your car, run to a nearby ditch and cover your head.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

If you are driving when a tornado touches down, you should not park beneath an underpass, and you should not stay in your car.

VERIFY QUESTION 5: Is it true a green sky means a tornado is imminent?

VERIFY SOURCE

  • Meteorologist Terran Kirksey

VERIFY PROCESS

Kirksey acknowledged we often see green skies before storms, but there is no scientific agreement about the specific cause of the green. 

"It does not always mean a tornado is coming, but it does mean that a thunderstorm with heavy rain, and likely hail, is on the way," Kirksey said.

He further explained there is a theory many meteorologists - including him - support. The combination of a lot of water (heavy rain and hail), along with a low sun angle in late afternoon and the setting sun, create the green hue.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

It is true a green sky indicates a pending severe storm, but it does not always mean a tornado. 

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