10 Striking Facts About the Twisters from Tornado Alley

The region in central United States where maximum number of tornadoes are known to occur is called the Tornado Alley. It also marks the area where the strongest tornadoes occur, as compared to other regions.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
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The deadliest and most destructive tornado in US history, called the Tri-State Tornado, occurred on March 18, 1925, near the Tornado Alley, and caused extensive damage in the states of Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. This tornado was classified under the F5 category, having wind velocity of more than 250 mph. About 700 people died, more than 200 were injured, and the cost of destruction was valued at about USD 16 million!
The term 'Tornado Alley' was first coined in 1952 by Captain Robert Miller and Major Ernest Fawbush, who were working as meteorologists in the US Army. They were undertaking research related to the changing weather and climatic conditions in Oklahoma and Texas. This term simply indicates the central regions of USA where high frequency of tornadoes are known to occur. According to a research analysis conducted from 1920 to 1995, about 25% of all tornadoes in the States are known to occur in this Alley.

The region is not defined by any fixed or rigid boundaries, but mainly consists of four states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Apart from them, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri also experience some effect of such disasters on a significant scale. If the four main states are taken into account, then the highest number of tornadoes are seen in Texas, while Oklahoma and Kansas are more prone to the highest frequency of such disasters per square unit area (like per square miles or kilometers).
10 Most Important and Interesting Facts About Tornado Alley
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An alternate definition of this area is that the region extends from the Prairies in Canada to the central portion of Texas, and from the eastern part of Colorado to the western areas of Pennsylvania. Florida also accounts for maximum high intensity tornadoes, but it is located outside the demarcated Alley boundaries.
The tornado frequencies during a specific season are dependent on the intensity of interactions between warm and cold air masses, i.e., warm and cold air fronts, respectively. Such disasters usually take place when the atmospheric temperature is high, and air flows from high pressure (cold air) to low pressure (hot air) regions. These conditions are much prevalent in the Alley.
Some other examples of tornado alleys also exist in different regions in the States, but are not characterized by tornadoes, which can be compared to those of the original central alley (in terms of intensity and number). Few of them are the Dixie Alley, Upper Midwest Alley, Ohio Alley, etc.
The Dixie Alley is well-known in this list, and comprises few portions of both Tennessee and Mississippi valleys. This name was given in 1971 by Allen Pearson. He was the former director of the National Severe Storms Forecasting Center.
A tornado alley is also present in the state of Ontario, Canada, wherein it extends from St. Lawrence valley to the upper areas of the Great Lakes. Country-wise, Canada ranks second after the US regarding the occurrence of maximum high-intensity tornadoes. The most logical reason for Ontario being a tornado-prone region is its proximity to the Great Lakes; this creates large temperature differences and intense storm activity.
On an average, in the main Tornado Alley region of the US, about 80 people are killed every year, along with the damage done valued at more than USD 300 million. The effects are devastating; entire buildings destroyed, crop farms damaged, and small destroyed houses without roofs, etc.
Apart from being a region known for its natural disasters, the Tornado Alley attracts many enthusiasts and research teams whenever the yearly season of tornadoes starts. Due to extensive research for many years, scientists have accumulated a lot of data about tornadoes that strike this area.
Construction work and related building codes are much stricter in the areas which fall in the Alley pathway. The roofs are built with extra strength, and every home has multiple cell phone connections. It is mandatory that all houses which are present in the flat meadow areas are equipped with cellars and tornado warning systems.
In the Alley areas, tornadoes mainly occur from April to June (this is considered the peak season). The wind speeds are in a range of 200 to 250 mph, and the horizontal traveling speed of tornadoes on the ground surface might go up to 70 mph. Such speeds are enough to outrun a car which is traveling at medium speed!
After considerable research, it was found out that Tornado Alley was characterized by several conditions that occur in combination, which increase the chances of tornado formation. The latitudinal and longitudinal values of the region places it between 30 to 50 degrees latitude; this is conducive for the formation of a tornado.
Be Safe Than Sorry
Whether you are living in the Tornado Alley region or not, always keep in mind to take some precautionary measures during a tornado outbreak. If your home has a cellar, it is crucial that you take shelter in the cellar along with other people present, as this part of the house will be the least affected. Many lives can be saved in this manner.
Never step outside in the open. In case you are outside when a tornado strikes, take cover beneath or near any shelter or large object which is unlikely to be uprooted by the winds. Keep emergency food and medications at accessible places in such times. Also make sure that you have some medium of communication at all times, so that you can get prior warnings and alarms raised by the weather monitoring organizations.
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