Why don’t tornadoes hit major cities?

+33 votes
asked Apr 26, 2015 in Science by JANELL (1,100 points)
I live in the Midwest and we have a lot of tornadoes here. These storms are capable of causing great damage in rural areas and smaller cities. I can’t imagine the destruction if a tornado would hit in, say, downtown Chicago, but you rarely hear about them occurring in big metropolises. Why don’t tornadoes strike big cities?

2 Answers

+15 votes
answered May 5, 2015 by Rob (660 points)
If you’ve ever experienced a tornado, you know these storms are some of the most powerful forces nature can throw at us. I lived through a massive tornado outbreak when I was a child. The devastation to my hometown was catastrophic and several people lost their lives, including a classmate of mine. She was only 11 years old.

I’ve often heard people say that tornadoes don’t strike in big cities, but that’s actually a myth. Tornadoes do occur in large cities. In fact, an F-2 tornado terrorized Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007 and in 1999 an F-4 tornado struck Oklahoma City and killed 40 people, leaving a trail of destruction in its path.

The truth is, though, that they don’t strike cities very often because cities don’t occupy much of the land. When you look at an aerial view of the earth’s surface you can see that only small areas are taken up by large municipalities. The majority of land is more sparsely populated and wide open spaces are exactly what tornadoes need to build up a head of steam.

With the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the Rocky Mountains to the west the mid-section of the United States is the perfect spawning grounds for tornadoes. Warm moist air from the Gulf moves northward at a lower level and cool, dry air at a higher level is pushed to the south. When these two elements combine, it creates a swirling motion, pulling more and more upward. That is when tornadoes are most likely to form.

But don’t be fooled. Tornadoes can happen in any state in the union. Mother Nature doesn’t play by the rules and myths like these tornadoes not hitting big cities, or not happening in the mountains, or never crossing bodies of water like rivers and lakes are just that: Myths.
+1 vote
answered May 6, 2015 by Nermeen (620 points)
I have no idea why don’t tornadoes hit major cities, but I simply think it’s not true. Though we can’t say hurricanes and tornadoes are exactly the same, but they both are storms, and in 2005, hurricane Katrina stroke so many states, including Florida and Texas, there are several big cities. Am I wrong?
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