‘Tornado Alley’ vs. Miami Valley: What factors go into making a strong tornado?

Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 @ 9:57 PM

Why tornadoes are stronger and more frequent in Tornado Alley verses the Miami Valley.

“Tornado Alley” is a phrase used to describe an area of the Great Plains where tornadoes are most frequent.

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This area stretches from northern Texas to South Dakota and the surrounding states. Not only are tornadoes more numerous in this region, but they tend to be stronger.

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Tornadoes are measured using the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This scale rates the intensity of tornadoes from EF0 to EF5 — light damage to catastrophic. Low-end tornadoes will have winds of at least 65 mph. A category EF5 twister will have winds of 200 mph or greater.

The Miami Valley has seen some strong tornadoes throughout history, but more times than not the typical tornado in this region tends to be EF0 to EF1. 

» LOCAL WEATHER: NWS confirms 2 twisters in Preble, 1 near Huber Heights on Sunday

Tornadoes can happen anywhere, but there are three main ingredients that tend to come together in tornado alley that typically don’t elsewhere: That part of the country is relatively flat and can allow cold dry air to penetrate from the north. This cooler air mass meets up with hot dry air from the southwest and runs into warm moist air moving up from the gulf. 

It’s where these air masses intersect that most tornadoes occur and with the greatest intensity.

In the Miami Valley, these three conditions don’t typically come together. 

While cool dry air and warm moist air can make the trip to the Midwest, the hot dry air usually gets trapped to the south.