Why America is ‘Tornado Alley’


The tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., was officially declared an ER5 storm. Meteorologists say the 40-minute storm exerted as much energy as 600 Hiroshima bombs.

Tornado tracking has an illustrious history. “The first person who got a handle on [tornadoes] was Benjamin Franklin. He was interested in almost everything when he was young and one of the things he became fascinated by was weather,” said Lee Sandlin, author of “Storm Kings,” on The Cycle on Wednesday.

While tornadoes strike around the world, nowhere are they more frequent than in Tornado Alley - a term given to tornado prone areas, like Oklahoma, in the central United States. Monday’s storm hit a similar path as one that hit Moore, Oklahoma in 1999. “It’s uncanny, and I’ve never read a good explanation for it, it just seems to be one of those flukes that can happen with weather like this,” Sandlin said.

Tornado Alley is the perfect tornado breeding ground–a place where cold air from the Rockies collides with  warm dry air from Arizona and New Mexico plus the warm, most air of the gulf. About 1,200 tornadoes tear through the U.S. each year–75% of world’s tornadoes.

Why live in such a dangerous area? “In some ways its almost impossible to completely avoid risks,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “But what we need to do though is make sure we have invested properly in the things that we need to do to keep us as safe as possible as resilient as possible.”


Why America is 'Tornado Alley'