Weather Myths You Definitely Believe, Debunked

Published On 09/13/2015 Published On 09/13/2015
Shutterstock/ Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

What we know about the weather has changed significantly over time. While the ancient Greeks once believed that Zeus controlled lightning in the sky, we're pretty confident that the Illuminati does that. Even with those scientific advances, though, some people still hold onto old wives' tales, like "earthquake weather" and heat lightning. Now, let's debunk those, too. But not the Illuminati stuff. That's 100% true.

Flickr/Warren Tyrer

Lightning never strikes twice in the same place

As it turns out, it can, and it will. In fact, it can strike twice in the same place within a minute! The Mythbuster guys debunked this myth in a video where lightning goes crazy on a tall building. The video also serves as a good reminder to never stand on the top of a skyscraper in the middle of a lightning storm.

Heat lightning is a real phenomenon

While we're on the lightning tip, let's dispel the myth about heat lightning. The weather geniuses at say that heat lightning is "actually a thunderstorm happening a significant distance from an observer." You may not hear the thunder for a number of reasons, like being "muffled by long distances." Heat doesn't cause lightning any more than the Miami Heat cause beers to be $9 at a basketball game.

"Earthquake weather" can predict when the ground will shake

We spoke to Michael Whener, a senior staff scientist at Berkeley, who hears this one. "There's no correlation between the weather and earthquakes," he said. People's memories are selective, he said, and can incorrectly correlate a 'quake with a sunny day or a rainy one. Similarly, rap expert Big Sean makes the claim in the song "Mercy" that when the ground moves, that's an "ass quake." Unfortunately, we found no expert who could comment on whether the weather can effect ass quakes.

Chicago is the windiest city, Florida is the sunniest state

Dr. Greg Postel, a smartypants hurricane/storm specialist who works at The Weather Channel, set the record straight about the famed slogans associated with Chicago (The Windy City) and Florida (The Sunshine State). As it turns out, a number of cities in the Plains, like Dodge City and Oklahoma City, are all windier "on a yearly average than Chicago by a few miles per hour." Plus, the state where everyone's grandma lives isn't that sunny, at least when compared to the Southwest states. "Phoenix gets twice the amount of sunshine per year than Tampa, Florida," said Postel.

Flickr/Alexey Kljatov

Snow means global warming is invalid

If your name is Jim Inhofe and you are the chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee, you believe this to be true. But Michael Wehner, who actually studies climate change for a living, has a different take. "The truth of the matter is that until it gets really warm -- and I actually wrote this in the National Assessment -- we should expect bigger snowstorms." Temporarily, of course. He says eventually it'll get warm enough that snow will be a "rare event" in certain places. And, ahem, there's a snowball's chance in hell he's wrong.

Your SUV can drive through floodwaters

Check out the horrifying phrase coined by the National Weather Service: Turn Around Don't Drown. Good luck sleeping tonight! But seriously, only 12" are needed to float away a small car, and 2ft can make an SUV float on like it was in a Modest Mouse song. The CDC says that "half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water."

Being inside makes you safe from a thunderstorm

Remember: like that woman in Psycho, you're not safe in the shower. Especially not when there's a thunderstorm outside. Stay off any corded phones, too. (Not that you have a corded phone, because you're probably not 65.) You also don't want to be by the window when it's lightning, as "metal window and door frames are lightning conductors," according to the National Weather Service and NOAA.

An overpass is a safe place to hide in a storm

Parking your car under an overpass to escape weather is generally a bad idea, like drinking a gallon of milk, or parking your car under an overpass ever. An overpass actually "concentrates tornado winds, causing them to be stronger," says the National Weather Service. Additionally, it's just a selfish, stupid act: parking on the road causes traffic jams, and traffic jams prevent first responders from getting to actual accidents caused by the storm. Now that you know the truth, you can be safe and not be an asshole!

Wikimedia/Justin Hobson

Tornadoes don't hit big cities or mountains

New York City is not immune to tornadoes, as residents of Brooklyn and Queens found out in 2010. Plenty of other big cities, like Dallas and St. Louis, have experienced them, too. And while mountain regions are less likely to have a hurricane all up in their face, the Rockies, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada mountains and, you know, other areas far from oceans, all have hosted a tornado.

Crack a window when a tornado's coming

The Weather Channel's Dr. Postel says that opening your windows is a waste of time and potentially dangerous, as it could allow debris to fly into your house. He said people once believed that opening a window ensured your walls and roof didn't explode when a tornado was nearby. Instead of opening windows, you should spend time finding a place to take shelter. But please don't make the mistake of spending time finding a DVD of Take Shelter, because that movie will just give you nightmares.

Snowstorm = blizzard

It might seem like semantics to debate whether people use the words "snowstorm" or "blizzard" describe a winter storm, but they're pretty different. The National Weather Service says that blizzards have "large amounts of snow or blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours)." So while you may experience a bunch of snow falling in a short amount of time, it only becomes a blizzard when extreme wind shows up to the party.

It's always sunny in Philadelphia

Don't listen to whatever garbage Mac tells you. The city has definitely had cloudy days.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and thinks it's only sunny in Philly when the Eagles win. Follow him to happy thoughts: @LeeBreslouer.



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