Report: Illinois No. 4 tornado state
People try to salvage what they can after a tornado destroyed homes in downstate Harrisburg on Feb 29.
With one deadly Illinois tornado already on the books for 2012, the Weather Channel dug into tornado data and determined Illinois to be the fourth-most prone state for twisters.
The list is based on National Weather Service data from 1950 through 2010, which ranked the states with the most tornadoes per square mile.
Although most people don't consider the state to fall into "tornado alley," the deadliest tornado in U.S. history swept through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in 1925 killing 695 people. The majority of the casualties were in Illinois.
The Tri-State Tornado was also the longest tornado recorded in the world, when it traveled 219 miles.
Illinois's data revealed an average 9.6 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles touch down each year, according to tornado expert Greg Forbes.
"Chicago even has a bit of a tornado alley up on the Northwest side toward O'Hare airport," Forbes said.
On March 12, 1976 a tornado narrowly missed President Gerald Ford's motorcade by a quarter-mile near O'Hare. An excerpt in Ford's daily diary from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum notes that he got out of his vehicle to view the damage the next morning.
First on the Top 10 Tornado State's list is Florida, where 12.3 tornadoes touch down on average per 10,000 square miles each year. Kansas is second and Maryland is third, according to The Weather Channel. Illinois is followed by Mississippi, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.
The Weather Channel put out the list to promote awareness and preparedness for early tornadoes.
Last year was one of the worst tornado years on record in the U.S., and although AccuWeather predicts above-normal tornado numbers for 2012, the year is not expected to be as bad as 2011.
Warmer than normal water in the Gulf of Mexico will amplify thunderstorm development and tornadoes in the states, but a weakening La Niņa will decrease the jet stream that fueled violent storms in the Midwest last year.
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report
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