A 2018 study indicates “Tornado Alley” may be shifting to the east.
The study, by meteorology professor Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University and Harold Brooks of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., found Tornado Alley has changed over the last four decades. Granted, the label never had specific coordinates. “Tornado Alley” was a phrase coined by a meteorologist in the 1950s and popularized by the media. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have always been included in this area, which extends to parts of up to 19 states. Another area to the southeast, often called “Dixie Alley,” is starting to catch up with Tornado Alley.
A summary of Gensini’s study from The Weather Channel noted, “Slight decreases in tornado frequency have been seen in the Plains since 1979. Drier conditions in the Plains, better tornado reporting and climate change may have roles in the shift.”
That doesn’t mean Kansans can now ignore the threat of tornados. One lesson from the study is that tornados are likely to become bigger and more destructive in the future. If nothing else, the growing population will ensure that property damage and loss of life will increase.
Tornados have occasionally hit close to home. Many of us still remember the tornado that hit Hoisington on April 21, 2001. More recently, tornados on May 17, 2017, hit homes between Pawnee Rock and Great Bend.
With that in mind, Kansas is observing Severe Weather Awareness Week and hearing reminders of how to stay safe. This includes moving to shelter when there is a storm warning. As the Great Bend community considers some improvements to our school buildings, the fact that most of them don’t have tornado shelters stands out. When we’re asked to support a bond issue for facility improvements, the addition of tornado shelters makes good sense.
Until then, take a moment to review the lessons of Severe Weather Awareness Week.