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Does St. Louis Have a Tornado Alley?


“Does [the St. Louis] metro area have its own tornado alley?” asks a headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? (article by Susan Weich, 7/6/14) The accompanying story notes that the metro area has experienced an increase in tornadoes since 2010, with 6 of them following similar paths through St. Charles and north St. Louis County.

As the story goes on, it becomes clear that it is too early to tell. The meteorologist interviewed, Greg Carbin of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman OK, explains that the year-to-year variability in these storms makes it premature to declare a trend.

The story also notes that the metro area has sprawled, making it a much bigger target for tornadoes to hit. (I’ve published several posts on sprawl – for the lead article in the series, see here.) Advanced radar technology peers into storms and finds tornadoes that used to go unnoticed. And people with cell phones report tornadoes from places where there once was no communication – and they even include pictures!

One hundred years ago, if a tornado touched down in O’Fallon or even Maryland Heights, it might have gone unnoticed. If a farmer saw it, he might have had no way to tell anybody else. Today, it might tear up a mall, get photographed by dozens of people, and have its path tracked in intricate detail by doppler radar.

So the answer is maybe, but it’s too soon to tell. Tornadoes might have a tendency to track through a certain part of the metro area, but it might also just be an unlucky streak for the people who live there.

I noted all these factors in my original series on tornadoes in Missouri last year (for the lead post, see here.) I’ll post an update with tornado information through the end of 2013 soon. And more on sprawl is coming soon, too.


Weich, Susan. 7/6/14. “Does the metro area have its own tornado alley?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Accessed online 7/6/14 at http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/stcharles/does-metro-area-have-its-own-tornado-alley/article_4bd90b14-c7be-560d-ad8c-c66956c1d6c6.html.

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