New study finds certain parts of Virginia are more susceptible to tornadoes than others

Tornado frequency and track and percentage of mobile homes are the main factors examined

Virginia's Tornado Alley (Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

ROANOKE, Va. – With Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week rapidly approaching, Old Dominion University researchers have released a new study that may raise some eyebrows in parts of our area.

The terms “Tornado Alley” and “Dixie Alley” may be familiar to some of you. They refer to parts of the Great Plains and Deep South that see a high frequency of tornadoes each year. The ODU study set out to determine if Virginia has its own tornado alley.

The study looked at a few factors: tornado frequency, tornado track and percentage of mobile homes in a given area. You might be wondering why mobile homes matter. Well, those structures are at the highest risk when a tornado moves through, due to how they are made.

The map at the top of this article summarizes the tornado risk for each county and independent city in Virginia, based on Your Local Weather Authority’s takeaways from the study.

There’s a primary “Tornado Alley” in eastern and northern Virginia that includes Richmond, the Tidewater and the D.C. metro area. Due to the number of mobile homes in Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties, we have concluded that those communities should also be included in the “highest risk” region.

Other places we included in the “some risk” category include Lynchburg and Martinsville, as well as Amherst, Appomattox, Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax and Henry Counties. Although there are not as many mobile homes in those areas, the tornado frequency and track is higher than other parts of the viewing area.

You can read more about the ODU researchers’ methodology here.

Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week will run from March 15 to 19 and there will be a statewide tornado drill on Tuesday, March 16 at 9:45 a.m.

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.