Correcting modern myths about tornadoes

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Rebekah Lodos

Special to the Ledger

Severe weather is a part of life in the Midwest. Tornado watches, warnings and basement lockdowns are familiar to most of the region’s residents. However, modern myths shape most people’s understanding of tornadoes.

Jay Antle, Executive Director of the college’s Center for Sustainability, is an avid storm chaser with a fascination with tornadoes that dates back to his years as a student. His office is filled with his photographs of gathering storms and grey columns of wind. He gave a talk at the Hudson Auditorium on September 28 titled Tornadoes,Topography and Tall Tales.

“Tornadoes are bizarre,” Antle said. “They are a violent phenomenon, they do terrible devastation, but they are also, in their way, starkly beautiful and in some ways alien.”

Antle addressed the common myths that people hold onto in his lecture, like the idea that opening the windows of a house will keep it safer. Although tornadoes do cause air pressure to go down, it is not enough to make a house explode. Antle also talked about the fact that topography doesn’t mean someone is more or less likely to be safe, despite what people tend to say. Antle pointed out the fact that geography doesn’t necessarily mean some people will never see a tornado since every state in the USA has been hit by a tornado.

Laci Adams, a college alumna and Iraq veteran, feels strongly about educating Midwesterners in tornado safety. A storm chaser in her free time, Adams was present at the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado that caused 158 fatalities. She described the destruction as worse than anything she saw in Iraq.

“In the Midwest when the sirens go off, people don’t pay attention to them,” Adams said. “They would rather go outside, with their phones, video tape it. And that’s exactly what I saw… not realizing that this tornado is right there in front of them.”

Both Antle and Adams emphasized that people should not take shelter under overpasses or try to outrun a tornado. If someone is in the car, Adams advises to look at where the tornado is going. If someone can’t see it moving, that means it’s coming towards them. In this scenario, the safest thing to do is buckle up and put your head down.

Adams advises to keep a safety kit in a place that is easily accessible in a time of need, like a basement. Adams also suggests keeping canned foods, water, medicine, whistles and a bicycle helmet in the safety kit. The bicycle helmet is best for children, who can be fatally injured from head trauma in a storm.

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