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The shift in Tornado Alley

Tornado Alley shifting
Posted at 10:47 AM, Mar 31, 2022

Tornadoes are touching down in areas that historically don’t commonly see them, now research is showing that Tornado Alley may be shifting, and scientists are trying to figure out why.

Neighborhoods in Round Rock, Texas have houses that have been destroyed after a tornado caused an estimated $32 million in damages.

“I heard a loud bang and crash,” said Linda Stevens, who has lived in Round Rock since 1993. “I went and got a couple cushions and made my way to the bathroom to get into the tub when all the noise suddenly stopped. I came outside and opened the front door, and it was a total disaster everywhere.”

Stevens is forced to stay in an apartment.

“Everything has to be moved out, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Stevens said. “I have never seen a tornado here. I feel like things are getting worse. We hear more and more about these weather disasters; they seem to be going to areas that just don’t generally have that.”

While Round Rock is just on the edge of Tornado Alley, the National Weather Service in Austin and San Antonio said that they aren’t necessarily rare, but they are very uncommon in that area.

“The number of tornadoes in this area varies from year-to-year,” said Jason Runyen, with the NWS. “Some years, we only get a few and others we can get a couple dozen.”

The tornadoes are sparking concern of Tornado Alley shifting, or as Runyen would describe it as the original Tornado Alley slowing down in frequencies while the southeast is ramping up.

“Traditionally, we have tornado alley in the central plains, and another cluster of tornadoes form over the mid and deep south,” Runyen said.

Research by the NOAA shows that more tornadoes have been turning up in the southeast in the last 15 years. A map shows that frequencies of tornadoes have been declining in Tornado Alley while there have been higher frequencies of tornadoes in the southeast.

“Is there a link to climate change? That’s what is being debated right now,” Runyen said. “And if climate change has to do with it, what degree is it playing a role? There is more distribution of tornadoes in the deep south and those are the factors that are being debated right now.”

According to atmospheric scientists from Purdue University, not only are the frequencies in the southeast increasing, but the studies have shown that they are more destructive. The research also explained that the dry air predominantly in the west triggers moist air and severe storms in the east causing Tornado Alley to shift.

The NWS is now warning those living in the southeast to prepare accordingly.

“If you’re moving to that area, you’d ought to think about tornado shelters,” Runyen said. “If you’re building a new home, build on that has been reinforced with a safe room in the home. Those are some things people can think about.”