Could a Tornado Really Take Your Home to Oz?

The wind whips and flips the leaves on every tree around you in a downward formation. An eerie chartreuse hue hangs over the cloudy sky. The birds have stopped chirping and the world turns silent, aside from the faint hum of what sounds like a freight train approaching. 

This is the moment where dear Dorothy frantically calls for her “Aunty Em!” to no avail. After  seeking shelter in the family’s old farmhouse, we watch as it gets whisked away to the Land of Oz. 

Up until recently, seeing a storm of this force was rare for most, reserved for fictional books  and films like The Wizard of Oz. As more and more tornadoes seem to pop up just about anywhere, anytime, their destruction is becoming a harsh new reality for homeowners even  outside of the infamous “tornado alley.” 

And their presence is only increasing

From tractors and cars, to plants and animals, tornadoes are destructive and show no mercy to any object in their path – including houses. But could a tornado actually rip your home off its foundation and fly it off to Oz? The House Hacks Tips team was curious, too, so we did a bit of research. Keep reading to see if you can put this film-induced fear to rest once and for all.

They’re Called Twisters for a Reason

To really understand if our homes could get swept off to see the Wizard, we asked our good friend Google how tornadoes work. And the answer surprised us. Contrary to popular belief, tornadoes don’t actually suck things up; they spin – or twist – them (that’s where the term twister comes from!). 

When warm, humid air mixes with cooler air and rises above it too quickly, a downward flow (similar to how a drain works) pushes the air down and rotates it, creating a swirl. If that swirl extends far enough to touch land, it takes off as a tornado – twisting and spinning at an average speed of 75 mph. As soon as any type of debris is pushed up into this “drain,” it’s usually pushed out just as fast, thanks to Centrifugal Force (something we won’t bore over the details with today!). 

Because they move in a twisting, horizontal motion, tornadoes’ force that “pick things up,” including items and machinery weighing over 30,000 pounds! However, the heavier the item, the less likely it can keep up with the speed and force of the tornado, so it’s essentially “flung” out and back to land.  

Can Your Home be Whisked Off to Oz?

To get to the final verdict, the House Hacks Tips team researched the average weight of a 2,000 square foot home, which is about 400,000 pounds

Taking what we now know about the force and inner workings of tornadoes, and their inability to travel with heavy objects, we can say with certainty it’s very unlikely your home could travel off anywhere near the yellow brick road. 

Twister-Proof Your Home  

While the chances of a tornado whisking your home “off to see the Wizard” are slim, it can certainly be forceful enough to rip it from its foundation. 

If you live in an area prone to tornadoes (or just want to be prepared for one), there are ways to safeguard your home:

  • Install Impact Resistant Windows to reduce the risk of shattered windows from increased wind and flying debris, which can cause serious damage and injury to those on the inside of your home.  
  • Attach Roof with Hurricane Clips so your roof can withstand strong winds and avoid flying off. 
  • Secure Important Documents. While heavy items can’t travel far in a tornado, weightless items, like photos and papers, can (up to 200 miles!). Store important documents and valuables in a fire-proof box and keep it nearby so you never lose those items..  

Finally, remember that if a tornado warning comes your way, the most important thing to do is to get to safety, preferably in a basement, and tap your heels together three times and say “there’s no place like home.”

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