11 Weather Myths You Need to Stop Believing Right Now
Some untrue weather facts seem to ride out the storm. Find out which potentially life-saving info you’ve got wrong.
Today’s weather is not your grandma’s weather.
Nature can give us signs that bad weather is approaching, and the weather can even predict our own health, but our ancestors could never predict the wealth of knowledge that we now have about our weather systems. Chris Maier, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, explains. “There’s an oral history out there about weather that people learn from their parents and grandparents,” he says. “But our understanding of the science of meteorology has really evolved as technology has advanced over the past 30 years. This helps us understand better how weather affects our safety and it disproves some of these myths.”
Myth: Big storms like tornadoes and hurricanes are the most deadly type of weather.
Though they often get the most media attention, these storms are actually less likely to cause you harm than extreme fluctuations in temperature. According to a 2014 CDC report, only 6 percent of weather-related deaths over a five-year period were due to storms and floods. Exposure to cold weather, which caused nearly 63 percent of deaths, was the most dangerous, followed by exposure to heat was responsible for 31 percent of weather-related deaths.
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Maier says this is one of the most widely believed weather myths. In fact, lightning can strike the same spot more than once, especially if the object struck is tall, pointed, and isolated. The Empire State Building, for example, is struck by lightning more than 100 times per year. Check out these other weird facts about lightning.
Myth: Doorways are the safest part of a house during an earthquake.
This outdated advice used to apply to adobe houses and unreinforced structures which were more common years ago, when the doorway was often the only thing left standing after a quake. Today, door frames of modern homes are no stronger than any other part of the house, and the door could hit and injure you during the rumbling. Instead, duck under a sturdy table or desk until the shaking stops.
Myth: Alcohol will warm you up in cold weather.
Actually, it’s just the opposite. While it can create the sensation of warmth, studies have found that drinking alcohol on a cold winter’s night causes heat to escape your body faster and puts you at an increased risk for hypothermia. If you do contract hypothermia, these are the first aid steps you need to survive. Alcohol causes blood to flow to the skin and away from our internal organs, a reversal of the natural process that keeps our bodies warm.
Myth: Taping your windows shut during a hurricane protects your home.
Old advice suggests tape prevents windows from shattering, but it actually can create larger, more dangerous shards instead of smaller, less harmful pieces. Taping may also provide you with a false sense of security, making you less likely to seek shelter in safe, windowless location. Instead, try proven safeguards like installing hurricane shutters or impact-resistant windows. These are the 11 precautions you should take to prepare your home for a hurricane.
Myth: Cold air makes you sick.
This one’s only partially true. Viruses, not weather, cause colds. However, chilly days might make us more susceptible to nasty winter bugs if we’re exposed to them. Though we’re bundled up, our faces are still typically exposed to harsh weather. When our noses are cold, blood vessels constrict and our immune response is repressed, which may allow the virus to take root, according to the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in England. And since we spend most of our days inside close to others during the winter, germs can spread more quickly.
Myth: Lakes, rivers, and mountains can protect an area from a tornado.
No, your bum knee can’t sense bad weather, and you shouldn’t think you’re safe from a tornado if you’re not in a hot spot for twisters. “People like to claim that tornadoes just can’t happen in their area or that something like a river protects their location,” says Maier. “But just because a tornado hasn’t happened in their area in the time that they’ve lived there doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.” Some unexpected big cities who have experienced tornadoes first hand: Twisters touched down in Boston in 2014, Minneapolis in 2012, New York City in 2010, and Atlanta in 2008.
Myth: Flash flooding can only happen near rivers and streams.
Water can rush in anywhere, even in urban areas. Some overlooked causes of flooding: heavy rainfall, hurricanes and snowmelt, according to Ready.gov. These rescue photos after Hurricane Harvey show just how damaging flood waters can be.
Myth: You can’t get sunburned if it’s not summer.
If you still believe this myth, it’s time to learn why it’s important to wear sunscreen in the winter. We’re often wearing less during summer, but you’re still at risk for sun damage in winter, according to the National Ski Areas Association. In fact, the earth is physically closest to the sun during the winter, and snow and ice can reflect damaging UV rays, giving your skin a double dose. Be especially careful on your next ski trip; the higher your altitude, the more UV rays you are exposed to.
Myth: You’ll get electrocuted if you touch someone who was struck by lightning.
You cannot pass an electrocution onto someone else, contrary to one of the old wives’ tails about weather that just aren’t true. Our bodies cannot conduct electricity, so touching someone who’s been struck won’t hurt you. Good thing, too. “The important thing is to call 911 and give someone medical assistance immediately, which you can’t really do without touching them,” says Maier.
Myth: You can safely drive through floodwaters.
Drivers of large trucks or SUVs might think their vehicles can make it through a flooded area, but that’s not always the case. “It doesn’t take much rushing water to sweep even an oversized vehicle away,” warns Maier. As the old adage goes, turn around, don’t drown. Weather-related or not, always have a plan of action in case you’re in the car during an emergency. To prepare yourself for the cold, check out these winter survival tips from the coldest parts of the country.