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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

When a tornado's path does take it through a city or town, it's the exception and not the rule.

What's causing the latest tornado outbreak?


Why are so many tornadoes hitting U.S. cities this year?

The answer is simply bad luck.

I know, not terribly scientific, but it's true.

Most tornadoes don't hit highly populated areas. However, it's not because of the buildings or asphalt or cement. It's because of simple geography. That is, in the parts of the U.S. where tornadoes are most common, there is a lot of rural, unpopulated area. When a tornado's path does take it through a city or town, it's the exception and not the rule.

Think about the Central and Southern Plains where tornadoes are most common. States like Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma have a tremendous amount of open area. It comes down to probability. There's a much better chance that a tornado will drop out of a cloud and on to a wheat field in Oklahoma than into a heavily-populated community.

Still, it does happen. Call it bad luck, fate or happenstance, there's generally no rhyme or reason as to why a tornado rammed right through Joplin, Mo. Sunday, instead of touching down in a relatively less-populated area about 20 miles to the south.

There has been one thing that has increased the probability of tornadoes hitting cities and towns this spring: The shear number of them.

Conditions have been unusually favorable for tornadoes several times this spring. Why this has happened is whole different blog and much less certain.

Why one tornado roars harmlessly through the middle of nowhere, while another barrels right down Main Street U.S.A., is simply a function of Mother Nature being cruelly random.

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