'Tornado Alley' Isn't Where It Used to Be

Study suggests it's shifting from the Great Plains to the Deep South
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2024 7:54 AM CDT
Nation's 'Tornado Alley' Is Shifting to the East
A prayer book rests on a parking barrier among the debris from a tornado that swept through Louin, Miss., on June 19, 2023. Mississippi is being hit more frequently by tornadoes.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

If the Wizard of Oz were written today, Dorothy might be trying to get home to Tennessee instead of Kansas. The reason? A new study suggests the nation's "Tornado Alley" has been gradually shifting to the east and south, reports CBS News. Decades ago, most tornadoes took place over the Great Plains—think Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska, per the Washington Post. However, the study in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology found that the Tennessee Valley and the Deep South now deserve the term. States such as Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee comprise the new alley, according to the study.

  • One example: The biggest drop in the frequency of tornadoes was a 40% decline in eastern Kansas through Oklahoma and north Texas, per the Post, while the biggest gain was a 25% uptick in southern Mississippi. Researchers looked at tornadoes rated at least a 1 on the 0-5 intensity scale, comparing the periods of 1951-1985 and 1986-2020.
  • Other changes: The bullseye for tornadoes (as measured by how many days one touched down) was over south-central Oklahoma in the first 35-year span, but it was over southern Mississippi in the more recent one. Tornadoes also are on the rise further east in states such as Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, per CBS.
  • In cooler weather: The study also found a change in when tornadoes occur, reports the Weather Channel. Tornadoes in the summer fell by 37% from the first 35-year period to the second. The biggest increases took place in the fall (up 80%) and winter (102%), particularly in the Southeast. Overall, though, the tornado count peaks in the spring.
(More tornadoes stories.)

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