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What is Tornado Alley?

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What is a tornado  outbreak?

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Why do tornadoes rarely happen in the mountains?


Tornado Alley

In the first article, you read about Will Keller, the man who looked straight up into the mouth of a tornado. Keller lived to tell the tale, and what he saw was amazing.

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Around the inside edges of the big tornado, small tornadoes were always forming and breaking away.


Keller saw that tornado in Kansas.  Kansas is one of the states in the part of the United States called Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley is the name of the world's most famous tornado zone. A tornado zone is a place where many tornadoes strike. The yellow part is Tornado Alley. States next to Tornado Alley get a lot of tornadoes, too.


The United States holds the world record for the most tornadoes per year. It gets 800 to 1000 tornadoes a year. 

Why are there so many big tornadoes in Tornado Alley? Most tornadoes are created by thunderstorms, and Tornado Alley is a huge flat land where thunderstorms can build up great power. The storms grow when a lot of cold air and warm air run into each other.


The cold air meets up with warm, wet air that is heading north from the Gulf of Mexico. This meeting creates many very large thunderstorms. And many of these storms create tornadoes.


Cold Air


Gulf of Mexico

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Tornado Alley is famous for tornado outbreaks. In a tornado outbreak, ten or more tornadoes happen in the same area within a few days. Tornado outbreaks can be bad around Tornado Alley. 


During one week in May 2003, 401 tornadoes were reported over 19 states. This was the worst week of severe weather in the history of the United States. The tornado winds caused many deaths and heavy damage, and hail from the same storms caused damage, too.  Notice the hail that struck this car.

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