6 First Alert Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tornado Alley may be shifting

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Recent trends regarding where tornadoes have formed do suggest that we may be seeing some changes in where the largest number of tornadoes and perhaps deadly tornadoes occur.

Over the last 20 years or so, recent trends in tornado numbers have shown us coming in under the 20-year average of ~1,250 yearly tornadoes across the United States. In this graph from the Storm Prediction Center, you can see that especially over the last 10 years we have had several below-average years.

Tornado Stats
Tornado Stats(WOWT)

We’re already off to a rather busy start for 2022 though with tornado totals to date already very close to the maximum we’ve ever recorded at this point in any year.

Tornado Graph
Tornado Graph(WOWT)

Most have been in the Deep South though and may be part of a large trend or shift in where tornadoes occur more frequently. In a study done by Victor Gensini from Northern Illinois University back in 2018, he makes the finding that the frequency of tornadoes is increasing in some parts of the country and decreasing in areas we have always deemed as “Tornado Alley.”

Along with that, the Storm Prediction Center looked at tornado numbers during a 30-year period from 1985 to 2014. They determined while the highest number of tornadoes still occur in the traditional “Tornado Alley” states, the larger number of deadly tornadoes or tornado fatalities tend to occur farther east in the deep south, especially over the last 10 years of that study.

10 year tornado average
10 year tornado average(WOWT)
Tornado deaths
Tornado deaths(WOWT)

Among the likely reasons for that are the increases in population density the farther east you move in the country along with the frequency of daytime tornados in the Great Plains versus more nighttime tornadoes across the Deep South.

The most recent deadly tornado in Iowa, unfortunately, occurred just this past March near Norwalk, Iowa.

It has been nearly eight years since there has been a tornado death in Nebraska, though. You have to remember back to the Pilger tornados in June 2014. That is a great streak that I hope we are able to keep going.

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