Monday, June 13, 2016

Do Tornadoes Hit Cities?

Last week I shared my biggest pet peeve tornado myth.  Since we are still in tornado season in the Midwest U.S. I thought I'd share another myth today.

"Tornadoes do not hit bit cities."

Nope, completely false.  Cities do not stop tornadoes.  Cities do not stop tornadoes from forming above them.  Tornadoes form wherever the weather conditions are right regardless if there is a city in that spot.  Consider the tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri in 2011.  Joplin is by no means a big city, but it is home to 50,000+ people.  That's not small.  There's a high density of man made structures, yet that tornado caused considerable damage and killed 161 people!  The city of Joplin did not stop that tornado.  Tornadoes hit big cities all the time.  Name a big city in the U.S. and it's been hit by a tornado.

Do most tornadoes strike cities?  No.  Most tornadoes will occur in rural areas, but that has nothing to do with cities stopping tornadoes.  It has everything to do with the amount of land covered by cities versus the amount of land covered by rural areas.  According to the 2000 U.S. Census (yes, old data, but the 2010 Census data will not change this much), 94.6% of U.S. land area is rural.  Assuming tornadoes are evenly spread across the U.S. (they aren't, but the Midwest U.S. is primarily rural), statistically most tornadoes will hit a rural area simply because there are more rural areas.

If I haven't been clear already, let me be clear now.  Cities do NOT stop tornadoes.

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