11 Weather Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Some untrue weather facts seem to ride out the storm. Find out which potentially life-saving info you’ve got wrong.

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Today's weather is not your grandma's weather.

Today's weather is not your grandma's weather.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

Myth: Big storms like tornadoes and hurricanes are the most deadly type of weather.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
Though they often get the most media attention, these storms are actually far less likely to cause you harm than extreme fluctuations in temperature. In fact, only 6 percent of weather-related deaths over a five-year period were due to storms and floods, according to a CDC report released last month. Exposure to cold weather, which caused nearly 63 percent of deaths, was the most dangerous, followed by exposure to heat, which was responsible for 31 percent of weather-related deaths.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

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Myth: Doorways are the safest part of a house during an earthquake.

Myth: Doorways are the safest part of a house during an earthquake.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
This outdated advice used to apply to adobe houses and unreinforced structures which were more common years ago, when the doorway was often the only thing left standing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.

Myth: Alcohol will warm you up in cold weather.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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. 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.

Myth: Taping your windows shut during a hurricane protects your home.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

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Myth: Cold air makes you sick.

Myth: Cold air makes you sick.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

Myth: Lakes, rivers, and mountains can protect an area from a tornado.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
“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.

Myth: Flash flooding can only happen near rivers and streams.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
Water can rush in anywhere, even in urban areas. Some overlooked causes of flooding: heavy rainfall, hurricanes and snowmelt, according to Ready.gov.

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Myth: You can't get sunburned if it's not summer.

Myth: You can't get sunburned if it's not summer.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

Myth: You’ll get electrocuted if you touch someone who was struck by lightning.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
Your body 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.

Myth: You can safely drive through floodwaters.Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/painterr
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.

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