Tornado Alley Explained

Due to the fact it averages 1,214 tornadoes every year, the plains of the United States have been dubbed Tornado Alley.

Although there is no official location for Tornado Alley, most often it is accepted to be the areas in between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.

Usually included in the Alley are: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and South Dakota.

The less intense parts of Tornado Alley are: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

Indiana is often considered apart of “Tornado Alley” and has a tornado average much higher than other parts of Tornado Alley.

Texas had the most tornadoes of any state due to their size, but Oklahoma has the most dangerous storms highest on the F scale, F4’s and F5’s.

Tornado alley receives the highest amount of tornadoes because the plains are flat enough to provide for all the necessary ingredients for a tornado. During the summer months, hot air gathers on the plains and creates updrafts. When the warm air hits the cold air, stirs up the thunderstorms causing rotation, the first stage in a tornado.

A tornado can form anytime of the year, but most form from March to August. Although in Indiana, it is not uncommon during a warm autumn to have severe tornadoes even in November. Due to the dryness of November, it is the most opportune time for a tornado to be formed, however more often than not, they don’t because of the coldness in the air.

Those who live in Tornado Alley are quite aware of the fact that tornadoes may pose dangers for them. Many residents have storm cellars or underground shelters to provide a safe haven during a tornado. Codes in high risk areas require buildings to have strong roofs and a foundation that is tethered to the structure. Tornado sirens are abundant and an important line of defense against this dangerous, sometimes warning less development of a severe storm.

Tornadoes are ranked according to wind speed on the Fujita Scale or F Scale.

40-72 mph. Not usually considered a tornado, this will cause light damage to trees.

73-112 mph. Moderate damage with mobile homes pushed off foundations or flipped over.

113-157 mph. Considerable damage with mobile homes being demolished and trees uprooted.

158-205 mph. Severe damage; roofs and walls will be blown over. Trains can be knocked over and cars picked up and tossed by the tornado.

206-260 mph. Devastating damage with even the most well constructed walls leveled.

261-318 mph. Violent damage; homes will be lifted from foundations and carried huge distances. Cars are even thrown as far as 100 meters.

Sometimes a sixth level is added as tornadoes have even been known to exceed 318 mph.

The deadliest tornado in United States history was recorded on March 18, 1925. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, 689 people were killed and 2,027 were injured by this tornado, or as speculated tornadoes. Named the Tri-State Tornadoes as they traveled across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, it is not to be confused with the longest track of a tornado that also traveled across these states a few years previous.

The largest tornado recorded was 2.5 miles wide and spawned May 22, 2004. It traveled along the ground for 62 miles, in Nebraska mainly hitting the town of Wilber. The center of Tornado Alley. Traveling across parts of three states, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, the F-5 tornado was on the ground for 7 hours and 20 minutes while covering 293 miles.

Tornadoes are perhaps the most deadly phenomenon known to man because there is often no warning prior to its devastation. Though technology has made great advances in this field, most tornadoes are formed after dusk when it is impossible to spot. Often times the aftermath is the only clue to the strength and length of the tornado, and by that time it is too late to save lives.

As you can see, Tornado Alley is often home to the dealiest and largest tornadoes. Because of this, homeowners and people living in this area are at a hightened sense during the Tornado season. This does not mean other areas will be tornado free; it is just this area is more prone to this disaster.