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Why You Shouldn't Open Your Windows During A Tornado

The old advice was to keep them open, to prevent your house from exploding.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

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A tornado hitting a house.

It's too late to shut them at this point.

Image credit: EmiliaUngur/Shutterstock.com

If you live in areas where tornadoes can whirl their way into existence, you likely are aware that the advice is to take shelter in a basement, or other rooms away from windows. 

This is because an exploding window could seriously injure or kill anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby. The advice on windows has changed over the years, as we've learned more about tornadoes. 

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"The old theory was that the drop in air pressure as a tornado hit a building caused the higher pressure inside to push the walls out - to make the building 'explode'," weather editor Jack Williams told USA Today, as reported in a 2006 article.

Then in 1979, one of the largest tornadoes in US history hit Wichita Falls, Texas. Assessing the damage afterwards, researchers realized a few things.

"The big lesson learned was that if you're in a reinforced structure, you need to stay there when a tornado's approaching," Alan Moller, a meteorologist who saw the destruction told Associated Press in 2004. "Automobiles are a steel death trap in a tornado."

Another thing that stood out was how homes with storm doors and shutters were less damaged than others.

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"[Researchers] realized that wind blowing into open, or broken, windows pushes up on the roof," Williams continued. "At the same time, wind blowing over the roof is making it act like an airplane wing that generates a lifting force. If the roof lifts off, the walls can fall outward, making it look like the building exploded."

Of course, tornadoes can leave you with no choice but to have open windows, courtesy of smashing your windows up with debris. While open windows can lead to worse damage, closing them is not the priority, and could put you in further danger.

"If you are threatened by a tornado, the last thing you want to do is to waste time running around opening windows, or closing windows," Williams added. "The most important tornado safety rule, if you are in a sturdy house or other building, is to take shelter in an inside room, away from windows."

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All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current. 


ARTICLE POSTED IN

natureNature
  • tag
  • weather,

  • storms,

  • tornados,

  • extreme weather,

  • tornadoes

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