Southern states more at risk for deadly tornadoes

thumbnail_2020 tornado southeast.png
Posted at 11:49 AM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 23:33:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When you think of Tornado alley, your mind probably goes to the Great Plains. However southern states are more at risk for deadly tornadoes than anywhere else in the country, and that risk is increasing.

thumbnail_2020 tornado southeast.png
2020 southeast tornado fatalities
2020 great plains tornado fatalities

In 2020, the southeast saw more deadly tornadoes than all of the Great Plains states. Tennessee sadly had the most tornado fatalities than any other state last year with 27 people losing their lives.

There are several factors that put Tennessee and southeastern states at a greater risk for tornado damage and death according to Krissy Hurley, with the Nashville National Weather Service.

"If you have ever driven across Oklahoma or Kansas, it is very rural, you could drive for 30 minutes and not see one person. Here in Tennessee, it takes a lot of effort to drive for that long and not see somebody," said Hurley.

With a denser population, even more trees in our landscape gives tornadoes more to destroy.

"So when those tornadoes, even the small ones, touchdown, we are more likely than not to see some type of damage," Hurley explained.

Southern states also have more people living in mobile homes. During severe weather, a mobile home is one of the most dangerous places to seek shelter. Mobile homes are not built to withstand the strong winds that are common in tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. So far in 2021, there have been 12 tornado-related deaths. Seven of those killed were inside a manufactured home during the storm.

Another factor that makes tornadoes in Tennessee more dangerous, is that they are very common at night.

"Tennessee is the No. 1 state for nighttime tornadoes and No. 1 for nighttime tornado fatalities, so it's evermore important to have multiple ways to have weather notifications that will wake you up so you can seek shelter immediately," said Hurley.

With more people moving to the Mid-State, these risks are only increasing.

"With an influx of people comes an influx of tornado damage as well," said Hurley.

We want to make sure you are always safe in severe storms. Download the StormShield app to get severe weather alerts sent straight to your phone.