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Does opening your windows before a tornado actually help? | Hey Ray!

Hey Ray: Should you open your windows during a tornado?
Hey Ray: Should you open your windows during a tornado? 02:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - There is an old idea that you should open windows before a tornado to equalize the pressure inside and outside of your home, reducing damage.

It's a simple question - so let's dive into it! Ray Petelin

This idea is rooted in science, even if it isn't a good idea!  

If you watched a previous Hey Ray! experiment, we put marshmallows in a container and removed the air. This lowered the pressure in the jar, causing the marshmallows to expand. The air trapped inside the marshmallows was trying to fill up the empty space created by vacuuming out the air, expanding the marshmallows. 

Remember our little experiment with marshmallows? Well, this is something kind of similar! Ray Petelin

The idea behind opening your windows is to allegedly prevent your house from expanding like a marshmallow and being damaged.  Tornadoes are, in fact, intense areas of low pressure. The pressure isn't the problem for your home, though.    

While the pressure does equalize, it's not the pressure that causes's that thing with high winds.  Ray Petelin

If a tornado hits your house, it will be damaged whether or not the windows are open. The tornado's wind is what causes damage, not the pressure difference between the inside of your home and the pressure inside the tornado. While it may look like a home explodes by looking at the damage, I can assure you it is the violent, tornadic winds that carve a path of destruction.

The aftermath of a 1985 tornado.  Ray Petelin

While you are trying to minimize damage, opening windows can also lead to additional damage! The windows could provide an extra barrier of protection, even though you don't want to be near them in the storm. The windows also prevent rain from blowing inside your home. You definitely don't want to deal with water damage.

Instead of wasting valuable time by opening windows, you should use that time to get to a safe space, in an interior room in the lowest level of your home with as many walls between you and the storm as possible!

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