5 factors that make Dixie Alley deadlier than Tornado Alley

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Tornado Alley is a dangerous, deadly stretch of land that stretches across Kansas, Oklahoma, and even into parts of Nebraska. But, its neighbor that sits snug against it is just as lethal. She's known as Dixie Alley.

This week marks the one year anniversary of the deadly EF-3 tornado that ripped through several counties in Mississippi. The violent tornado left seven people dead and at least 40 or more injured.

Two of the worst hit areas were Holly Springs and Ashland.

Those same cities were targeted by violent storms again this week....one year to the date of the devastation.

Although no one can predict exactly how severe tornadoes will be in any given season, there is one thing that is certain. The Mid-South is a magnet for deadly twisters, and it has everything to do with the location.

"When you think of the size and number of most of the tornadoes in the country, you probably think of Oklahoma, Kansas, and even Nebraska - traditional tornado alley, but new research is turning that assumption on its head," WMC Chief Meteorologist Ron Childers said.

Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi make up the bullseye of what is known as Dixie Alley.

Despite Tornado Alley traditionally having more frequent tornadoes, Dixie Alley produces the most destructive and deadly tornadoes.

"In the past five years alone, as many as 58 people were killed by tornadoes in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The National Weather Service recorded 219 tornado-related deaths across the country during that five year range," Childers said. "That means more than a quarter of those who died during or after a storm lived in states we call home."

A study at the University of Northern Illionois said five critical factors cause Dixie Alley tornadoes to be more deadly.

1.) The number of mobile and manufactured homes - Almost half of all tornado deaths happen in these types of structures and homes.

2.) Many of our tornadoes pop up at night, when most people are in bed - Because most people are in bed and possibly asleep, they miss the warnings of the approaching tornadoes.

3.) Trees give more debris- Tornado Alley provides flat land - Because traditional Tornado Alley is in the Plains, you can see for miles. In Dixie Alley, the abundance of trees can quickly turn into deadly debris.

4.) Dixie Alley has early season storms - That means tornadoes in Dixie Alley happen anytime of the year. In fact, some of the most severe storms happen in November and December instead of the spring and summer when Mid-Southerners seem to be more aware of the risk.

5.) Complacency - Many people are caught by surprise by a quickly developing storm that spawns a tornado. That causes a higher death rate.

"Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as warmer temperatures, are also big factors in the frequency of severe weather outbreaks in Dixie Alley," Childers said. "So, even when we get a strong cold front come through in the winter, it doesn't take very long at all for that moisture from the Gulf to surge inland and put us in a ripe environment for tornadoes. You can never let your guard down - no matter what time of year it is."

The WMC First Alert Weather Team is committed to keeping you safe. Chief Meteorologist Ron Childers joins Meteorologists Andrew Kozak, Spencer Denton, Brittney Bryant, and Chief Meteorologist Emeritus Dave Brown to present a special First Alert: Inside the Storm special Friday, December 23, at 7 p.m.

It's information that could save your life. Don't miss it.

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