This spring has been an odd season for Michigan. April was the second most active tornado season on record, with Michigan experiencing its first-ever tornado emergency, a rare declaration of an exceedingly dangerous tornado in the area. Michigan has never been known for its tornadoes, but this year we've already had 8 tornadoes when we usually average 15 the entire year.

 

Is that because Michigan is slowly becoming part of Tornado Alley? A new study found that Tornado Alley is moving, and Michigan's tornado odds have also changed.

 

Tornado Alley As We Know It

Since I was a kid with a slight obsession with watching Stormchasers on Discovery Channel, I've known that the places to avoid if you don't want to risk getting carried away in a tornado have been Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Since 1950, Central America has been dubbed "Tornado Alley", but now a new study has found things are moving east.

 

 

America's New Tornado Alley

A study by Timothy Coleman, Richard Thompson, and Gregory Forbes has found that tornado activity is shifting from the long-established "Tornado Alley" to a more eastern front, with the tornado hot zone now moving toward the Tennesse Valley and Deep South.

 

Why this is concerning to Michigan is because of two important factors mentioned in the study:

  1. Path lengths, or the distance a tornado travels on the ground, have increased in the Midwest. Considering we had a tornado travel 12 miles already this year, tornadoes staying on the ground longer causing more destruction doesn't bode well for us.
  2. The other worrisome takeaway for Michigan is the prevalence of cool-season tornadoes from November to March. Tornadoes typically happen during the summer. We all know how long it stays cold here, so if we don't get the reprieve that winter usually brings...yikes.
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Scientists still aren't sure what is causing this trend change, but the numbers don't lie. While there is some discourse about the findings of this study, there is generally good support for this study. Either way, places known for getting tornadoes will still get tornadoes wherever the "alley" is so it's important to stay vigilant.

Tornado Damage in Southwest Michigan on May 7th, 2024

2024 Michigan County By County Tornado Risk Projections

Roof Gnome, using FEMA data and analyzing nearly 950 counties throughout the United States at moderate to high risk for tornados, was able to rank 34 Michigan counties for storm risks in 2024 and projected financial impact. Here's a county-by-county look at Michigan's Tornano Vulnerability.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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