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.