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Tracking tornadoes: how many "tornado allegs" does the United States have?

A tornado can strike anywhere. But about 60 years ago, a swath of the Midwest was dubbed "Tornado Alley." The region, The New York Times wrote in 1957, was "the incubator of nature's deadliest storms." At the heart of the "alley" was Kansas, site of the most famous but fictional tornado--the one in The Wizard of Oz.

Two years ago, Michael Frates, then a graduate student at the University of Akron in Ohio, decided to find out how accurate the label "Tornado Alley" really was.

He plotted the worst tornadoes from 1950 to 2006 on a map. They had to be "long-track" storms (traveling at least 20 miles) and rank at least F3 on the Fujita scale of tornado intensity--that is, strong enough to throw cars. (F5 is the most violent on the scale.) Frates ended up with not just one tornado alley, but four (see map).

Tornado season runs from late winter through midsummer. This year, it started on February 29--outside the original Tornado Alley. A twister tore through Harrisburg, Illinois, killing seven people and destroying hundreds of homes. By the end of that week, others had ripped through the Midwest and South, killing 40.

Study the map, then answer the questions on p. 23.


Use the article and map to answer these questions. Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

1. When is tornado season in the United States?

2. What did Michael Frates's research show?

3. The deadliest tornado in U.S. history struck in which of the four alleys?

4. In which alley is Harrisburg, Illinois?

5. Which three states did the Tri-State Tornado strike?

6. Which of the four alleys is east of the Appalachians?

7. How many of the 2012 tornadoes shown were not in one of the four alleys?

8. In which alley did the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, fall?

9. Which states are part of Hoosier Alley?

10. If a state is not part of any of the four alleys, does that mean it never has tornadoes?


1. late winter through midsummer

2. that many of the worst tornadoes to strike the U.S. from 1950 to 2006 occurred in three areas outside the original Tornado Alley

3. Hoosier Alley

4. Hoosier Alley

5. Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri

6. Carolina Alley

7. six

8. Tornado Alley

9. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee

10. no, only that they are less severe there or occur less often

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Title Annotation:GEOSKILLS
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 2, 2012
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