5 Hurricane Myths Debunked

People think all kinds of things are true that aren’t. Most of the time people hear or read something that makes initial common sense, so it sticks in their brain like a barnacle on a ship’s hull. The problem is … Common sense and actual truth are often at odds.

We don’t teach critical thinking in this country, we teach obedience. As a result, people have lost even the urge to think through situations or use logic when someone with perceived authority says something, especially if it seems to make common sense.

To illustrate, here are 5 hurricane myths debunked with, I hope, enough actual information to help you make your own decisions. You’ll believe what you want to believe (or what is easiest for you to believe), but I’m taking a stab at the intellectual laziness in our culture by trying to give you examples of how we ALL can fall into blindly following what we think is authoritative or common sense.

1. To equalize pressure inside a home during a hurricane, open a window = Myth

For a reason I don’t understand, people think their house is airtight, and that air pressure differences between the inside and outside will blow out windows or do other damage. This is, in fact, completely incorrect. The NOAA says, actually, to keep your windows closed:

All doors and windows should be closed and shuttered throughout the duration of the hurricane. The pressure differences between inside your house and outside in the storm do not build up enough to cause any damaging explosions. (No house is built airtight.)

Protip: Don’t open windows to equalize air pressure.

2. Taping windows is a wise safety precaution = Myth

Last year, Meteorologist Bill Read at the National Hurricane Center told attendees at a week-long convention that taping windows is bad advice that was printed in hurricane brochures in the 1970s.
While that advice was rescinded in the 1980s, the idea did get out and stuck in the American psyche like a barnacle on a ship’s hull.

CBS News quoted Read as saying that taping windows “… does not protect your windows. At best, it’s an inconvenience. At worst, some people have the illusion that they’re safe … and people can get severely hurt.”

CBS News also quoted the President and CEO of Federal Alliance for Safe Homes Leslie Champman-Henderson as saying “The (glass) shards can become bigger because they’re being held together,” and “You’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your money and you’re potentially increasing the danger to your home.”

Protip: Don’t tape windows.

3. North American hurricanes are more common now than in the past = Myth

As you can see in this NOAA graphic, hurricanes are actually less common overall now than in the past.

NOAA Landfalling Hurricanes by Decade 1900-2008

(click to enlarge)

In fact, the 2005 spike in landfalling hurricanes (15) doesn’t even support the “more common now” myth, because within the century preceding 2001-2008, there were four decades with more than 15 landfalling hurricanes.

What most people probably remember is the comparative landfalling hurricane lull in 1970-1981. What they aren’t remembering (or are too young to remember) is that this period was exactly that: a lull. People hear ratings-driven, scare-mongering media outlets claim that there are more hurricanes now, and they believe it because anything, even a lie, repeated often enough begins to feel truthy.

4. North American hurricanes are much stronger (i.e. cause more economic damage) than in the past = Myth

I can’t address this myth better than Oceanographer John Englander (author of High Tide on Main Street) did during an interview on Stossel:

“You’ve heard that Billion dollar disasters are going up! Well, what you have to do is you have to take the damage and adjust it for Gross Domestic Product and inflation, and we look at that, and it simply has no trim whatsoever … There’s more STUFF in the way of the weather.”

Englander’s point is that as our population increases, and we build more, the areas where disasters strike are more densly-packed than in the past. Add to this that $1 in 1950 and $1 in 2013 are most certainly NOT the same dollar, and it’s easy to see why the statement of Billion dollar disasters are going up! keeps being repeated. Refer again to above notes on repetition and truthiness.

(Stossel is the ONLY Fox show I watch, so back off!)

5. Hurricane Katrina was the most deadly hurricane in US history = Myth

The unnamed 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston Island, Texas was the most deadly hurricane in North American history. This hurricane claimed at least 10,000 lives (estimates range between 10K and 12K for the area, not just the city of Galveston). So many people died that the survivors had no choice but to bury the bodies that were found at sea. This became a secondary disaster when bodies began to wash back up on shore. Cremation of the washed-up remains followed.

This hurricane was more than 100 years ago, and is likely no longer taught about outside of Texas public schools. Even if it is taught, no one remembers it because it happened far, far away and long, long ago to strange people who dresssed funny and lived on an island for God’s sake. It doesn’t matter to those being taught, and the gruesome details are liklely omitted. Who’s going to remember? Hopefully, you will, now.

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About

Middle-aged, life-long Texan with a substantial chip on her shoulder.

Posted in culture, education, psychology/psychiatry
2 comments on “5 Hurricane Myths Debunked
  1. Variblex says:

    you should ahh make a presentation about….hurricane safety and put this in it …it would be interesting!

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