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Should Tornado Alley Be Moved?

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jeff Ray
Jeff joined CBS 11 and TXA 21 in December 2010. He came to North T...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Devastating tornadoes struck Alabama and Missouri last year, making for the deadliest tornado season in 70 years. But both of those states are outside of what is traditionally considered to be Tornado Alley. That begs the question — should Tornado Alley be moved?

North Texas is certainly a part of Tornado Alley. Living in the Metroplex means living with tornado danger, just look back at April to remember how violent the twisters can be in this area. “The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is on the southern edge of Tornado Alley, however you want to define it,” said Mark Fox with the National Weather Service. “There are a lot of people here, a lot of people at risk, and this is a growing area.”

Tornadoes leave behind destruction in a very uneven way. For example, 178 people died from tornadoes in May 2011. But this past May, there were zero deaths. Regardless, a private risk management group in California looked at the insurance losses from last year and is making an argument to widen the alley.

The traditional Tornado Alley covers parts of six states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota. Within the past 10 years, from 2000 to 2009, there have been $2.5 billion in tornado damage across that region.

But expanding the zone eastward, as many think should be done, would then include nine new states. Looking at the same 10-year time frame, the new states racked up $15.5 billion in tornado damage — much more than the traditional Tornado Alley. The real question is — should one horrific year lead to changes in the entire tornado map?

“In January and February, it’s Arkansas, it’s Mississippi, it’s that southeast,” Fox explained. “I think we are going to see those things. The long-term trends are going to show right here in the plains, the short trends are going to show other places, everywhere else.” In other words, yes, it is possible to see tornadoes in other non-alley locations, especially outside of the spring.

And no matter how you define Tornado Alley, it is going to include North Texas.

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