The new 30 year average indicates the annual number of tornadoes in Arkansas increased from 26 to 33. Meteorologist John Robinson with the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock says there are 2 likely causes for the increase. First, there is more public awareness of severe weather, thus people are more likely to report tornadoes. The second reason is due to the National Weather Service increased efforts to verify tornadoes by going our and examining storm damage.
Take a look at this first map...
|Average number of tornadoes annually by state|
Now look at this 2nd map....
|Average number of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles|
A few years ago, meteorologist Ashley Walker worked on some important research. He found out that portions of Arkansas are in what's called "Fatality Alley" meaning there are more deaths caused by tornadoes in sections of Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama than any other place in the country.
|Research from Meteorologist Walker Ashley with Northern Illinois University|
- Mobile home density. The NIU meteorologist said 44 percent of all fatalities during tornadoes occur in mobile homes, compared to 25 percent in permanent houses. The southeast United States has the highest percentage of mobile-home stock compared with any other region east of the Continental Divide. “Mobile homes make up 30 to 40 percent of the housing stock in some counties in the deep South,” Ashley said. “By far, mobile homes are the most vulnerable structures in a tornadic situation.”
- Nighttime tornadoes. The southeast United States has a higher likelihood of killer nighttime tornadoes. Most states within this region have greater percentages of tornado fatalities occurring at night than other states.“I just completed another study that shows tornadoes from the midnight to sunrise period are 2.5 times as likely to kill as daytime events,” Ashley said. Further, nocturnal tornadoes are more difficult to spot, and people are more likely to be asleep when warnings are issued.
- Forested areas. Whereas regions within the Great Plains by definition are lacking in tree cover, the mid-South region is more forested, leading to reduced visibility both for the public and spotters.
- Early season storms. Storms that occur before the national peak in the severe storm season, which spans May and June, may catch people off guard during a tornado event.
- Complacency. In contrast to other parts of the country, the South lacks a focused “tornado season,” which can lead to complacency. “In the South, people think tornado alley is where you get tornadoes,” Ashley said. “That sort of perception also leads to complacency, which in turn leads to higher fatality rates.” He points out that Oklahoma is known worldwide for the frequency of its tornadoes. Yet the state has fewer fatalities than Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi.