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The Southwestern

The Student News Site of Southwestern Oklahoma State University

The Southwestern

Tornado Alley

Tornado season is ramping up. Where should students go on campus if the emergency arises?

Tornado Alley. The scariest place to live in America during the spring. The name Tornado Alley first gained popularity in 1952 when USAF meteorologists Earnest Fawbush and Robert Miller used the term to title their research on severe weather in Oklahoma and Texas. Tornado Alley is a term used to reference a region that has a high frequency of tornados. Typically this Alley consists of parts of states like Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. However, over the past few years, meteorologists have noticed that Tornado Alley has started to shift east.

Locations east of the original tornado alley, such as Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee are seeing a spike in tornados since 2008. However, meteorologists speculate that the recent El NiƱo year (a natural phenomenon where sea temperatures are warmer than average, affecting coastal climates) could have the potential tornado alley travel back westward. Despite the eastward spike, central Oklahoma had the same volume of tornados from 1950-1984 as it did from 1984-2023. When looking at maps that record the frequency of tornados EF-2 or stronger, Oklahoma was the only region that was consistently being hit with large tornados.

Tornados are terrifying forces of nature that are not to be messed with. Decades-old trees stand no chance to a funnel of 165mph wind (EF-3). So what do you do when you hear those sirens?

You should always have a bag ready to go during tornado season. In this bag, you should have essentials like water bottles and non-perishable snacks. When going to the shelter, you never know how long you might be in there- so it’s a good idea to be prepared for everything. A deck of cards could be beneficial to pass the time and keep the nerves down. You should pack extra chargers, and if you can, pack portable chargers. If you find that you can’t get good service while in the shelter, invest in an emergency weather radio. These radios can reach local news channels while you are in the shelter. Not only can it tell you when it’s safe to leave the shelter, but these radios often come with add-ons that are necessities in your tornado bag, like flashlights. Some other basic items that should be in your tornado bag include paper and pencils, batteries, first aid supplies, and mini toiletries like wipes. If you have infants, you should pack formula and diapers. Comfort items like blankets or stuffed animals will soothe all ages. And finally, make sure you get the most important part of the bag. Yourself.

Photo taken on 10/09/2001 by a Cordell resident. Image found through NOAA/NWS

The most important thing you can ever do when you hear tornado sirens is put that bag on and get into a shelter. Just in the last 10 years, tornados have caused more than 188 million dollars in damages just in Oklahoma. This statistic is significantly lower than our neighboring state Texas which has had 1.68 billion dollars worth of damages from tornados since 2010. These tornados are ruthless and unpredictable. So what can you do if you find yourself with nowhere to go?

Many SWOSU students live on or near campus with no idea what to do when the storms roll in. When the weather becomes severe, students have the option to go to one of two buildings. The Al Harris Library basement or the Old Science Building. If you find yourself not in one of these buildings when sirens are going off, you should calmly locate the innermost room on the bottom floor of the building you are in. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gymnasiums. For a list of the safest rooms in each SWOSU campus building, visit the tornado procedures tab under student services on The Bulldog for Students website. (

Lastly, it’s important to stay calm. The odds of you being harmed in a tornado are very slim. There is only a 1 in 12,000 chance that a tornado will hit within 1,000 miles of you per year. Keep calm and remember what to do and where to go in case of an emergency. Stay safe out there this tornado season, summer is almost here!



Sources; 1. 2. (Key image via AccuWeather) 3. 4. 5. 6.,are%20around%201%20in%2012%2C000.&text=But%20that’s%20your%20chance%20for%20any%20tornado.

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About the Contributor
Jessica Dooty
Jessica Dooty, Reporter
Jessica is a freshman from the small town of Jones, majoring in Communications with a minor in Public Relations. She joined The Southwestern in February 2023 after transferring, and loves to take pictures of campus life and events. She enjoys anything car or music related, but will always jump at the opportunity to photograph anything.

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