Severe weather forecast to affect 50 million today from FL to OH. With dozens of damaging tornadoes hitting Texas on Monday this week might just mark the beginning of Tornado Season in the U.S. 120 tornadoes have already been reported so far in 2022. As the spring and summer months approach, conditions historically become more volatile. Specifically from March to June, the highest chance of severe weather spreads north and east across the Plains, the Midwest, and Southeast. Like Hurricanes and Wildfires, Tornadoes have a peak season too.
Where is Tornado Alley?
As we move out of winter, warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico begins to creep up the infamous “tornado alley”. Tornado Alley is the swath of the country’s midsection from Northern Texas to the Canadian border. There are no official boundaries for tornado alley and the term itself is more of a media buzz word rather than scientific distinction. The term, however, isn’t unwarranted. Almost a quarter of all tornadoes occur in this area during Tornado Season (depicted in the map below). Although tornadoes can happen across the US, the tornadoes that form in tornado alley are frequently the largest and most destructive.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale for Measuring Tornadoes
Like Hurricanes, tornadoes are measured by their wind speeds. Also like hurricanes, they are measured from 0-5, but their categories are based on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The smallest tornadoes swirl between 65-85 mph which can cause localized damage. On the other end of the scale, the largest tornadoes can tear through counties and cause widespread devastation from their 200+ mph winds. The highest recorded wind speed on earth was measured at 302 mph in 1999 by a mobile weather station during an EF5 event near Oklahoma City, OK. RedZone has found that over the last few years, NOAA has actually developed a way to show tornado paths and destruction. Now anyone can track near-real-time damage from major severe weather events using NOAA’s Damage Viewer.
Although tornadoes can happen across the US, the tornadoes that form in tornado alley are frequently the largest and most destructive.