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In the United States, there are two regions with a disproportionately high frequency of tornadoes.
Florida is one and “Tornado Alley” in the south-central United States is the other. But don’t forget the Dixie Alley, the Hoosier Alley and the Carolina Alley!
Tornado Alley is a nickname given to an area in the southern plains of the central United States that consistently experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year.
Tornadoes in this region typically happen in late spring and occasionally the early fall.
The Gulf Coast area has a separate tornado maximum nicknamed “Dixie Alley” with a relatively high frequency of tornadoes occurring in the late fall (October through December).
Strong to violent tornadoes (those of EF-3 or stronger on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Intensity Scale), are relatively rare, and do not typically occur outside the United States.
Although the boundaries of Tornado Alley are debatable (depending on which criteria you use—frequency, intensity, or events per unit area), the region from central Texas, northward to northern Iowa, and from central Kansas and Nebraska east to western Ohio is often collectively known as Tornado Alley.
Meteorologically, the region known as Tornado Alley is ideally situated for the formation of supercell thunderstorms, often the producers of violent (EF-2 or greater) tornadoes.
Overall, most tornadoes (around 77%) in the United States are considered weak (EF-0 or EF-1) and about 95% of all United States tornadoes are below EF-3 intensity. The remaining small percentage of tornadoes are categorized as violent (EF-3 and above).
Of these violent twisters, only a few (0.1% of all tornadoes) achieve EF-5 status, with estimated winds over 200 mph and nearly complete destruction. However, given that on average over 1,000 tornadoes hit the United States each year, that means that 20 can be expected to be violent and possibly one might be incredible (EF-5).
Analysing all the tornado touchdowns that occurred between 1950 and 2004, most killer tornadoes occurred in the red zones from the upper map as shown below:
This last map can be translated into an activity map presenting the US tornado frequency of F3 and greater intensity tornadoes by area as shown in the following map:
According to recent measurements, the Tornado Alley is shifting East, puzzling scientists:
Florida has numerous tornadoes simply due to the high frequency of almost daily thunderstorms. In addition, several tropical storms or hurricanes often impact the Florida peninsula each year. When these tropical systems move ashore, the embedded convective storms in the rain bands often produce tornadoes. However, despite the violent nature of a tropical storm or hurricane, the tornadoes they spawn (some as water spouts) tend to be weaker than those produced by non-tropical thunderstorms.
Do you live near or right in the Tornado Alley or the Dixie Alley or in Florida? If so you better have a good insurance and be prepared for the next dangerous tornado!