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Tornado Risk Analysis: Is Dixie Alley an Extension of Tornado Alley?

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  • 1 Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi
  • | 2 Northern Gulf Institute, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi
  • | 3 Department of Geography, Sangmyung University, Seoul, South Korea
  • | 4 NOAA/National Weather Service, Jackson, Mississippi
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The term “Tornado Alley” is a gross approximation of the most tornado-prone region in the United States. Depending on calculation methods, Tornado Alley can vary dramatically across the area between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. There is some evidence that multiple alleys of peak tornado activity exist around the country, including “Dixie Alley” in the Southeast. Therefore, we assess the spatial tornado risk and seek any regions of elevated tornado risk that are distinctly separate from the traditional Tornado Alley of the Great Plains. Results show there are no tornado risk areas statistically separate from Tornado Alley, but there are large portions of the Southeast that experience more tornadoes than the rest of the country. It appears that Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley are part of a single large region of high tornado risk with a relative minimum near the middle due to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Placement of the maximum tornado density in Mississippi, along with other regions of relative maxima across the Southeast, may warrant modification of the traditional tornado risk map that focuses only on the Great Plains. Understanding such patterns is important for preparing the public and mitigating tornado hazards.

The term “Tornado Alley” is a gross approximation of the most tornado-prone region in the United States. Depending on calculation methods, Tornado Alley can vary dramatically across the area between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. There is some evidence that multiple alleys of peak tornado activity exist around the country, including “Dixie Alley” in the Southeast. Therefore, we assess the spatial tornado risk and seek any regions of elevated tornado risk that are distinctly separate from the traditional Tornado Alley of the Great Plains. Results show there are no tornado risk areas statistically separate from Tornado Alley, but there are large portions of the Southeast that experience more tornadoes than the rest of the country. It appears that Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley are part of a single large region of high tornado risk with a relative minimum near the middle due to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Placement of the maximum tornado density in Mississippi, along with other regions of relative maxima across the Southeast, may warrant modification of the traditional tornado risk map that focuses only on the Great Plains. Understanding such patterns is important for preparing the public and mitigating tornado hazards.

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