Where is Tornado Alley, And Why Do So Many Tornadoes Happen There?

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Where is tornado alley?

That’s the question we hear a lot. Depending on who you ask, you’ll probably get a different answer.

So where is tornado alley?

You may think you know, as everyone thinks they know…but the reality of the situation is tornado alley doesn’t actually have one set defined area that is…tornado alley.’

The simple fact is, tornadoes are pretty common over a big chunk of the US. The area in between the two major mountain ranges in the country, the Appalachians to the east and the Rockies to the west, is where a huge majority of tornadoes happen in the country.

Where Is Tornado Alley?

Pinning down where is tornado alley has historically been pretty difficult and would depend on your criteria.

What we call traditional tornado alley begins across Northern Texas and stretches northwards along the Great Plains throughout the entire middle of the country. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri are the traditional hotbeds of tornadoes. Traditional tornado alley is what a lot of people think of when it comes to…tornado alley.

But the area just east of traditional tornado alley, including states like Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama are historically active as well.

In fact, the most violent tornadoes in terms of frequency occur along a northwest to southeast belt from Southern Kansas and Oklahoma into Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama historically.

The simple truth is, this area between the Rockies and the Appalachians is particularly vulnerable to tornado activity.

Why is Tornado Alley so Active?

The reason for this is the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf features a hot and humid airmass and it sits just south of the United States. This airmass, when brought inland, becomes very unstable.

Thanks to the jet stream aloft and the collision of air masses from both the desert southwest as well as the cool air coming from the north — the trigger point for storms to form within a favorable environment for tornadoes is set.

The United States is unique in this way. Because of that we average more tornadoes than any other country — and its not even close!

So when it comes to tornado alley,  you probably won’t get full agreement on where. So for now, lets just say that the middle part of the country in between the two major mountain ranges is certainly tornado alley to the rest of the world.