Blame it on The Wizard of Oz or a frazzled Helen Hunt in Twister, but tornadoes top my list of mortal fears. As an adult, I watched a perfectly funneled tornado form over the open Colorado plains outside of Denver International Airport and promised myself I would never live in Tornado Alley. Well, Tornado Alley isn't where you might think anymore (it's moving east, but we'll get there), and I live in Austin, Texas. When I saw the new AccuWeather US tornado forecast report, I knew it was newsworthy. Here's the deal.
As part of their yearly weather forecasting reports, AccuWeather released their weather observations for 2019 based on the previous year. The weather outlook predicts that there'll be 1,075 tornadoes in 2019, which is up from the 2018 prediction of 987. The report breaks down weather events by season, and the weather radar service predicts there will be 525 tornadoes from March through May, which as AccuWeather pointed out, is the normal average for those months of the year using computer models. Even better, in 2018, there were only 345 recorded tornadoes from March to May.
So weather patterns predict more tornado events this year, but where? Well, that question isn't as easy to answer as it used to be. The tornado forecasting report predicts that parts of Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas will see a higher uptick in severe storms. In the below graphic, you can see the southern plains are situated in the High risk area, while the rest of the Southeast, like Mississippi and Louisiana, is listed in the Moderate risk area. As AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok wrote in the report, "We believe that the more traditional severe weather region of the central and southern Plains will have a higher potential for tornadoes and severe weather more frequently than they have experienced on average the past three years."
A 2018 study, though, suggests that Tornado Alley is actually shifting eastward. Over the last four decades, researches found that the Midwest and a huge area of the Southeast has seen an uptick in tornado watches, tornado warnings, and past tornadoes. According to the study, this area of the United States is now being referred to as Dixie Alley.
No matter how you slice it, you should know tornado safety tips no matter where you live. In the spring and summer, monitor your daily forecasts and pay close attention to shifting fronts and storm patterns that produce tornadoes. For instance, storm fronts that have a pronounced V shape, similar to a bow, often signal to storm spotters that the conditions are right for severe thunderstorms to become tornadoes. Because I care about your safety, I took the liberty of recommending a tornado kit below.
The Ready America Tornado Kit has enough supplies for two people and includes 2 food bars, 12 water pouches, 3 emergency lightsticks, 2 survival blankets, 2 emergency ponchos, 2 safety googles, 1 pair of leather gloves, 1 disposable dusk mask, 1 emergency whistle, 1 duct tape roll, 6 pre-moistoned towelettes, 1 bio-hazard bag, and 1 first aid kit. It's regularly priced under $65, but right now is 38 percent off, making it less than $40.
Look, I know you're handy. Whether you buy it or simply use the above list as an outline for your own tornado safety kit, I'm begging you to put together a safety kit. Peace of mind is worth more than $65, y'all.
This post was originally published on February 26, 2019. We're adding it back to our homepage because tornado season is beginning across the Midwest and Southeast.