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Dixie Alley, Does it Exist?

Annual km of tornado path within 40 km (24.9 miles) of any point.  Source: Dr. Grady Dixon, MSU

Annual km of tornado path within 40 km (24.9 miles) of any point.
Source: Dr. Grady Dixon, MSU

Columbus, Miss (WCBI) – Tornadoes are no stranger to Mississippi and west Alabama. And because we’ve had so many, some refer to this region of the country as Dixie Alley. We took this question to Meteorology Professor Dr. GRADY Dixon at Mississippi State University, who clears the air.

“I’m not a fan at all of the name Dixie alley because you’re trying to define a geographic area with an already known geographic that is not the same. They’re similar. But really, we have one big tornado region in the country. It stretches from the eastern side of the Rockies to the western side of the Appalachians. Dixie – Great Plains – or Tornado – whatever you want to call it, everybody needs to be aware of how at risk they are,” says Mississippi State University Professor Dr. Grady Dixon.

In fact, in his recent nationally recognized research, he found that right here in Mississippi you have about six miles or so of tornado passing within you.

“That’s scary when you think about if that’s happening every year on average,” said Dr. Dixon.

There’s a bull’s eye of annual tornado paths within about 25 miles of any point in Mississippi and Alabama. Compare this to previous maps that show a high concentration of tornadoes in the Great Plains, and one would think there’s a shift in tornado alley.

“Really we don’t think there’s even a shift. This is probably the way that it’s always been. But previous research counted tornadoes. We looked at where they started. And for meteorologists wanting to understand tornado formation that’s pretty important. But for human risk, that’s not very helpful. We need to know the entire path length. And that’s what our studies looked at. If we would have been looking at that all along, we probably would have been seeing that the bull’s eye really is in this part of the world,” says Dr. Dixon.

The main difference between tornadoes in the Great Plains and here, is the time of the year.

“We have no reason to think that there is physical differences but the main difference is the time of year. We get our tornadoes, really throughout the year except for July, August and September,” says Dr. Dixon.

Tornado season in the Great Plains tends to occur in May, June and sometimes July.

Click here to watch the interview with Dr. Grady Dixon: http://content.bitsontherun.com/previews/Xb7VZIkm-SeJj1gu5