Geography of U.S. Tornadoes: Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley

May 27, 2013

With the recent devastating tornadoes in the U.S., a study led by geographer Grady Dixon of Mississippi State University is very much in the news.  In their research, Dixon and his colleagues note that Dixie Alley may actually experience more tornadoes than the more famous region known as Tornado Alley because tornadoes actually stay on the ground longer in the South.  His research indicates that the U.S. county most likely to experience a tornado is Smith County, Mississippi.  His research examined not only the actual number of tornado strikes, but also the duration of tornadoes on the ground.  Dixon and his co-authors note that the atmosphere is more volatile in early spring when the Southeast tends to experience the majority of tornadoes and these storms tend to last longer than those in later spring.  For example, Dixon said that of the 1,700 tornadoes in Colorado that researchers measured,  the average path length was 1 mile.  In comparison, the 1,600 Mississippi tornadoes studied had an average path length of 5 miles.

Connect to for an interview with Grady Dixon.

His study appeared in the April 2011 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

For more information about tornadoes and to download tornado data, visit