What is Tornado Alley?

 

This name has been given to an area in the southern part of central United States because of the frequent occurrence of tornadoes there. Tornado Alley generally includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, South Dakota and parts of Texas.The US generally experiences approximately 1000 tornadoes every year. They appear in every state but tornado Alley has the highest percentage of tornadoes! According to the Storm Prediction Center’s database between 1950 and 2012, around 30% of the tornadoes occurred in this area. During this period, 58,046 tornadoes were recorded and 16,674 of those took place in Tornado Alley making an average of 268 tornadoes per year.

 

But why is this weather phenomenon so frequent there?

 

During summer time, temperatures in these areas are really high; plains get hot, creating updrafts which lead to thunderstorms.  Tornadoes can be formed during thunderstorms when the hot air from the ground rises and comes in contact with the cooler air above.  They can be seen throughout the year but mainly between March and August.  Tornadoes can last from several seconds to more than one hour but usually they last up to 10 min.

 

How do people deal with this situation?

 

Around 17 million people live in this area and they are aware of the great danger tornadoes can cause. For this reason all new buildings have strong roofs and strong foundations. It is very common to see storm cellars and underground shelters in most houses. Moreover, in many neighbourhoods there are tornado sirens that warn people of upcoming tornadoes.

Tornadoes are not only dangerous but costly as well. According to the Storm Prediction Center, since 1950, seven of the ten most damaging tornadoes have occurred in Tornado Alley with Joplin, which occured in 2011, being the most expensive and the most dangerous one. The damages caused by this tornado reached as much as 2.8 billion dollars in this area.