We often assume tornado alley (plain states) has the highest rate of fatalities from severe weather... that's wrong. Did you know Arkansas, Mississippi, and portions of Tennessee are in "fatality alley"? Yes, more people die each year from twisters in this region of the country due to several factors. To see a map of this area, look at the bottom of this blog post.
According to research by meteorologist Walker Ashely from the University of Northern Illinois, this region gets this terrible statistic for several reasons:
1) Nighttime tornadoes. People are likely asleep when tornadoes warnings are issued and do not get the warning.
2) Mobile home density. This region of the country has a high density of mobile homes which are more vulnerable to damage in a tornadic situation.
3) Early Season Storms. Some can get caught off guard when severe weather hits before the typical tornado season, spring
4) Complacency. People often think tornado alley is where most tornadoes occur in the U.S. and if they don't live in this area, tornadoes don't often occur.
John Robinson with the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock found a startling statistic. All tornado fatalities in Arkansas over the past 2 years are people over the age of 60.
We MUST change the statistics above and get warnings out and everyone should know where their safe place is located.
The situation Sunday night COULD turn out to be a classic example which illustrates Walker Ashley's research... a likelihood of severe weather at night in areas of the country that have the highest deaths.
I expect showers and storms to develop across Oklahoma late Sunday, form into a line, and push through the state overnight. I have talked with KAIT Chief Meteorologist Ryan Vaughan today and he's concerned about cells developing earlier in the evening across Arkansas. If these develop ahead of the main line, there will be a potential for them to become severe and produce tornadoes.
Right now, the highest threat will be damaging winds with the line, but isolated tornadoes can't be ruled out. Since this is coming in at night, it COULD help keep the severity levels down a little, but strong dynamics will likely lead to severe weather Sunday night into Monday morning.
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