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10 Pieces of Disaster Safety Advice You Should Ignore

        Science | Storms

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Open a Window During a Tornado to Balance the Pressure and Reduce Damage.
Opening a window during a tornado has the potential to cause way more harm than good. Laura Clay-Ballard/iStock/Thinkstock
Opening a window during a tornado has the potential to cause way more harm than good. Laura Clay-Ballard/iStock/Thinkstock

Disaster safety advice isn't always final. What seems smart to one generation can seem foolish to the next. Take the whole open-windows-during-tornadoes suggestion.

It all started when some very intelligent people tried to explain why tornadoes took the roofs off of houses and often blew walls outward. The going theory was that when the extreme low pressure at the center of a twister engulfed a house, the higher pressure inside would cause it to explode from within. Therefore, opening a window or door would equalize that pressure and save the house from bursting.

A 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas, however, turned this advice on its head. A team of researchers who studied the devastation found that houses with storm doors and shutters fared much better than those with open windows. It was the wind getting inside the homes, not the pressure, that was lifting the roof and flattening the walls.

Aside from the faulty premise, it turns out that running around and opening windows during a tornado isn't a good idea for another reason. Flying debris is responsible for most twister-related injuries, so standing next to an opening that could potentially blast you with shards of glass and other projectiles isn't a great plan. The best advice, according to the Storm Prediction Center, is to head to an interior room on the lowest level of your house — and stay away from windows!


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