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Scholastic News Edition 3
Scholastic News Grade 3 helps students build critical thinking and test-taking skills as they read timely nonfiction.
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Two years ago, a tornado destroyed parts of Joplin, Missouri. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Tornado Country

More tornadoes rip across the United States than any other country. Which states do they affect the most?

Each spring, huge cone-shaped clouds of swirling air sweep through towns and cities in the United States. Like vacuums, they suck up everything in their paths, tearing through homes and tossing cars. They’re tornadoes—and they can happen anywhere at anytime.

Scientists are learning more about these deadly storms. A recent study shows where twisters pose the biggest threat to people in the U.S.

STORM STATES

For decades, the area stretching from Texas to South Dakota has been nicknamed Tornado Alley. More twisters strike there than any other place in the world. But it’s actually not where tornadoes can cause the most trouble.

Meteorologist Grady Dixon and his team have studied data on more than 50,000 tornadoes that have touched down in the U.S. since 1950.

“We looked at the entire path of all tornadoes to find out how often they pass through different areas,” Dixon told Scholastic News.

He found that people living in states to the east of Tornado Alley are at greater risk of experiencing a twister. Why? Most tornadoes that form there are faster and last longer than tornadoes in Tornado Alley. That means they pass through more places where people live. Dixon’s research helped identify what’s being called the “New Tornado Alley.”

TORNADO WARNING

Meteorologists are using this new information to raise awareness about twisters in states outside the better-known Tornado Alley. They want more people to know the signs of a twister and what to do if one is heading their way.

But predicting exactly when and where twisters will form is still difficult. Right now, most people have less than 15 minutes to prepare for one.

One thing that has helped alert people to tornadoes is new technology like smart phones. “If someone sees a tornado coming, he can take a video on his phone, post it, and 10,000 people know about it within minutes,” says Dixon.

This article appeared in the May 6, 2013 issue of Scholastic News Edition 3. For more from Scholastic News, click here.

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