NORMAN, Oklahoma (WDTN) – Tornado Alley is on the move eastward, the consequences of which may be felt in Ohio.
Major tornado outbreaks have led to dozens of deaths in the Southeast over the last decade. The latest, happening Sunday in Lee County in Alabama, where 23 people were killed.
The change in pattern has led to changes in what NOAA considers the “Tornado Alley” region of the country, where tornado activity is the most active.
That area is moving to the east, and creeping closer to Ohio.
“A tornado outbreak in the southeast is our wake up call to be ready for the severe weather season in Ohio,” Storm Team 2 Chief Meteorologist Brian Davis said. “Our months with the greatest threat are April, May and June, but the risk is already rising in March.”
That’s a risk that NOAA officials fear may rise. Sunday’s outbreak in Alabama was the deadliest since a series of tornadoes killed 41 people in the Ohio River Valley on March 2, 2012. Four people died in Adams and Clermont counties in Ohio.
“If the trend of everything shifting toward the east continues, Ohio may see an increase,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Patrick Marsh said. “I’m not making a prediction, but it’s a possibility.”
Marsh, who works at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma the ‘Dixie Alley’ of Arkansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee is seeing more tornadoes than in recent years.
What has made the southern tornado activity different is the frequency and the outbreaks aren’t attached to any season of the year.
“We know in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, late spring into early summer is the most likely time of year for tornadoes,” Marsh said. “The problem with the Southeast is there is no defined tornado season. It runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.”
The rise in tornadoes in the Southeast coincides with changes in how tornadoes are occurring.
Coinciding with the recent rise of tornadoes in the Southeast, they happen less as a daily occurrence and more often as part of major storm outbreaks.
“That’s another interesting aspect to this,” Marsh said.
While the eastward trend continues, so far Ohio has avoided the increased activity.
“We are on the northeast fringe that exists to the south, but we aren’t nearly as active as those regions,” Seth Binau, Science Operation Officer with the National Weather Service in Wilmington said.
“If you imagine a large maximum centered over the Mississippi River and over Alabama, Oklahoma, Mississippi and those areas, it decreases as it gets closer to us.”