Kansas Meteorologist Says Myths Don’t Protect Against Severe Weather

March 13, 2014

Weather experts in Kansas say people should not trust in myths to keep them safe during severe weather.

The local legend of the Tonganoxie Split “purports the mystical power of the hills” to divert severe weather away from the Kansas City metropolitan area, according to a list of “Fun Facts” from the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce.

The split is also said to protect Lawrence and, of course, Tonganoxie, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“A lot of newer people in the community probably aren’t familiar with the term,” longtime Tonganoxie resident Art Hancock said. “You still hear it come up in conversations about the weather sometimes.”

The world delivered a dose of reality in May 2000, though, when a tornado hit Tonganoxie, causing $2.1 million in damage to more than 200 homes and nine businesses.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Barjenbruch, who works in the Topeka office, said maps indicate there’s no difference in frequency of severe weather around Tonganoxie than anywhere else.

“I would certainly call it a myth, or maybe more of a misconception,” he said. “It seems like almost every community has something like this.”

Other weather myths in the area include Burnett’s Mound, a high point in the southwest part of Topeka that some residents believed tornadoes couldn’t jump. A massive F-5 twister changed that belief in 1966 when it went over the mound and into the city.

Tales that tornadoes can’t cross rivers or form at high altitudes also are false, Barjenbruch said.

“The takeaway point is, really, whatever you do, don’t have a false sense of security based on where you live,” he said. “Always have a plan in case that tornado comes rolling in to town.”

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