Tornado Alley Shifting To The East, Study Finds

This puts Missouri and Illinois more in the crosshairs for twisters.

Brett Blume
October 18, 2018 - 11:36 am
F5 tornado that occurred in Elie, Manitoba, Canada back on June 22nd, 2007. This was Canada's strongest recorded history ever.

© Justin Hobson |


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A new study looking at four decades worth of statistics suggests that Tornado Alley is shifting to the east.

And that means people living in this region are more at risk than ever, according to the lead author of the study, Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini.

"Absolutely, the trend is certainly upward in Missouri and Illinois over the last four years," Gensini tells KMOX. "And so while that may only account for an extra tornado or two in each of those small grid-boxes in our paper, when you look at the aggregate over the entire state, say Missouri or Illinois, you're certainly seeing a pretty large increase in those regions."

He says although the traditional Tornado Alley states of Texas and Oklahoma are still seeing plenty of activity, the number of tornadoes there have decreased over the past 40 years.

Gensini doesn't want to downplay the danger to those who live in traditional Tornado Alley locations.

"Tornado Alley, quote-unquote -- Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas -- still sees a lot of tornadoes every year, but the numbers there are trending downward through time and they're increasing in places like Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas," Gensini says.

The same study shows that overall, about 1,200 tornadoes strike the U.S. each year, claiming an annual average of 73 lives.

Gensini believes the new research will help pinpoint future tornado activity across the country.

"Severe thunderstroms accompanied by tornadoes, hail and damaging winds cause and average of $5.4 billion of damage each year across the United States, and $10 billion events are no longer uncommon," according to the study.

Gensini knows this raises one obvious question when it comes to what's behind the shift to the east.

"We're just simply not able to say definitively that this is due to climate change," he explains. "It is plausible that this is natural variability as well. So we're basically speculating at this point that it's climate change."