Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Texas, not Oklahoma, tops in tornadoes

A tornado passes south of Oklahoma City on May 20, devastating Moore, Okla., with winds that at times topped 200 miles per hour.

Associated Press

A tornado passes south of Oklahoma City on May 20, devastating Moore, Okla., with winds that at times topped 200 miles per hour.

Oklahoma fourth in tornadoes

A friend told me that Oklahoma gets more tornadoes than any other state. Is that correct?

Cold, dry air flowing east from the Rocky Mountains colliding with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, usually in spring, is the formula that makes the United States the tornado capital of the world. And most of those 1,250 tornadoes that hit the country each year happen in the Midwest.

Oklahoma is in that area that many people call Tornado Alley, and it ranks fourth among states in the average number of tornadoes per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

Texas is the state that saw the most tornadoes in the period from 1991-2001, with an average of 155 a year. Kansas is second with an average of 96 a year, followed by Florida with 66 and Oklahoma with 62.

The top 10 is rounded out by Nebraska (57), Illinois (54), Colorado (53), Iowa (51), Minnesota (45) and Missouri (45).

Kansas is the state that sees the most violent tornadoes, an average of 3.1 per year, followed by Arkansas (2.9), Texas (2.8) and Tennessee and Oklahoma (2.7). The United States gets an average of 37.5 of these most destructive tornadoes annually. Florida gets less than 1 of these a year (0.4 annual average).

The states seeing the fewest tornadoes annually: Alaska and Rhode Island (0); Hawaii, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts (1); and Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia and Nevada (2).

The worst months for tornadoes are usually April, May and June. In 2012, 46.6 percent of all tornadoes in the United States occurred in those months. In 2011, 73.6 percent of tornadoes happened in April, May or June.

The worst tornado on record occurred on March 18, 1925, hitting Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and killing 2,025 people.

Friction destroys meteors

Why do meteors explode in the atmosphere?

Meteors and other space debris travel through the vacuum of space at extremely high speeds. When a meteor enters the Earth's atmosphere, it creates friction and pressure that cause the meteor to heat and glow before it explodes or shatters into smaller pieces, most often in the part of the atmosphere called the mesosphere.

Most meteors disintegrate before they reach Earth. The meteor that exploded about 12 to 15 miles over Russia on Feb. 15 likely was 55 to 65 feet in diameter and weighed about 10,000 tons.

NASA reported that the meteor exploded with the force of somewhere between 440 and 500 kilotons of TNT, or more than 30 to 40 times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Only small pieces have been recovered.

Q&A: Texas, not Oklahoma, tops in tornadoes 05/26/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 4:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.