The weather report Aug. 17 was unusual for our mountain communities — tornado warnings in the High County, including Watauga and Ashe counties.

But wait, doesn’t conventional wisdom tell us that tornadoes don’t cross mountain ranges?

While this myth has been debunked by past empirical evidence in the High Country, it’s been awhile. So yes, tornadoes do strike in the mountains. In fact, they can form anywhere where the conditions are favorable — such as the fallout from coastal hurricane-generated thunderstorms, as we experienced last week.

Because this wasn’t our first brush with tornado warnings, and surely won’t be our last, it’s worth refuting other accepted fallacies about this deadly weather cycle. The following comes from a few tornado experts who study the storms for a living. The science behind the facts can be found at

When a tornado is coming:

Don’t open the windows. Your home won’t explode if the windows are shut. You will invite tornadic winds inside if you open them.

Don’t seek shelter under an overpass or similar structure. Wind constricted into small spaces increases with velocity.

Don’t believe that tornadoes can’t strike large cities, downtowns or (insert your town name here). A suburb of Oklahoma City has twice been struck by some of the most brutal tornado winds on record, as recently as 1999 and 2013. Your town is not charmed just because a tornado has never struck there. See the above about “favorable conditions.”

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