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Tornado Safety: Solving The Open Windows Debate

Updated on September 27, 2012

When a tornado comes through, should you leave the windows shut or open them? This is a debate that has been raging for awhile, and it's time to examine the facts. There are plenty of half-truths and myths out there, but what really is your best option during a tornado to spare your house, save on damages, and protect your family from injuries?


Save Your House - Shut The Windows!

The question of should you open your windows during a tornado stems from a very understandable desire to save your home. Somewhere, a rumor started that open windows helped equalize the pressure between inside and outside, making your home less attractive to a tornado. This is completely untrue.

While there is a slight pressure differential between the interior of a building and the outside, its not enough to make a difference. To test this, Mythbusters took on the windows-open vs. windows closed debate using the Medusa Hurricane Simulator in Episode 129. Using a model home in front of the simulator, they decisively proved that open windows do not help in a hurricane or tornado-type situation.

Prevent Damages - Shut The Windows!

Another key learning in the test about having the windows open during a high wind event like a tornado is the level of damages. Most damages in a tornado come from the debris that is blown around in the storm. If your windows are open, that debris is going in your house.

Now, a basic closed window is not going to stop major debris going at full speed, nor will it save your house if it is directly hit by a tornado. However, keeping the windows closed will lessen the overall levels of water damage, dirt, and smaller debris damage to the interior of your home from tornadoes that pass nearby and minor storms. In fact, for minor tornado events, closed windows could be enough to shield your home interior from any damages.

Prevent Injury - Shut The Windows

Tornadoes cause most of their injuries by flinging debris. When you have your windows open during a tornado, that debris can come into your home freely, compromising your personal security. Flying tree branches, street litter, small rocks - all of these things can be very painful for people and they don't belong in your home.

By closing your windows in a tornado, you put up a barrier between you and the flying debris. This can help prevent small but painful injuries caused during a tornado and keep your personal shelter free of danger, dirt, and storm water.

Another aspect of injury prevention is that if you go straight to your safe space when a tornado is sighted, you won't be standing in front of a window when a tornado hits, trying to get it open. This helps cut down on glass injuries and keeps you out of a direct path of danger when a tornado strikes.

Remember, the best thing to do when a tornado is sighted is to seek shelter and protect yourself. Don't mess with the windows - just leave them shut!


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