"The Wizard of Oz" may have taught us that tornadoes are a worry in Kansas, but it's really people in Alabama who need to watch out for the deadly storms. According to a list compiled by The Weather Channel's tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes, three of the worst cities for tornado damage are all in the Yellowhammer State.
Forbes has been making an annual list of the 10 worst tornado cities for a while now, but this year he added additional types of data going all the way back to 1962. "The difference between this year's list and the ones in the past is the past ones were just counting the sheer number of tornadoes," he said in a recent Weather Channel article* about the list. "That didn't take into consideration the track length or path width. Thus it didn't count how big of an area was being affected by the tornadoes."
According to Forbes' calculations, Huntsville, Alabama, is the worst city in America for tornado damage. One of the largest tornado "outbreaks" in U.S. history occurred in Huntsville on April 27, 2011, when nine people were killed. Another Alabama city, Birmingham, ranked third on Forbes' list. The city suffered 109 tornado deaths between 1950 and 2012. Tuscaloosa, which was also heavily hit by the 2011 storm, was close behind in fourth place; the city lost 43 people during that storm.
Jackson, Mississippi, was the second-worst city on the list. In fifth place was Little Rock, Arkansas, which experiences an average of 32 tornadoes every April.
Atlanta, home of The Weather Channel (and where Mother Nature Network is based), ranked as the eighth worst city for tornadoes. Forbes calculated that the city has experienced at least 70 tornadoes since 1950.
Also on the list were Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Wichita and Nashville. Most of these cities are not in the Plains areas traditionally equated with tornado activity. "Now we're becoming more aware of how tornado prone the Gulf Coast states are, especially from the Mississippi River east," said Forbes.
The Weather Channel's article also includes videos on picking the safest rooms in your home during tornadoes, footage of some of the worst disasters, and a map of all tornado activity over the past 56 years.
*Editor's note: The original Weather Channel story has been removed from that website, but you can find tornado updates and information at The Weather Channel's Tornado Central and Forbes' Facebook page.