A month ago, Jim Lewis of Pratt was in Raleigh, N.C., wielding a chain saw and chisels. His scheduled task was to convert a tree stump in his daughter’s yard to a bulldog, while all around, neighbors were cleaning up limbs and trees downed by an April 16 tornado.


A month ago, Jim Lewis of Pratt was in Raleigh, N.C., wielding a chain saw and chisels. His scheduled task was to convert a tree stump in his daughter’s yard to a bulldog, while all around, neighbors were cleaning up limbs and trees downed by an April 16 tornado.

Over that weekend, at least 160 tornadoes were confirmed in 14 states in the Southeast. Before the month ended, the Southeast took another major hit, with storms centered in Alabama that killed more than 300 people. Lewis is from Tornado Alley, where violent spring storms are expected, although this year, Kansas did not report any tornadoes until the past weekend.

His daughter Kari has lived in Raleigh for more than 20 years. The “tail end” of hurricanes is much more common there, Lewis said. As he made the more than 1,000-mile trip, he saw occasional downed trees, but nothing like what he has come to expect from Kansas tornadoes.

The National Weather Service reports that tornadoes can occur in any state, at any time of the year, although May and June are typically peak months. Kansas reported no tornadoes during the first two weeks of May, when the average is about 15 — the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.

Tornado Alley is the name given to a group of states in the southern plains, stretching from Texas north to Iowa and from central Kansas and Nebraska east to Ohio, although there is no clear agreement on boundaries. Florida is also listed as a frequent site for tornadoes, as is “Dixie Alley,” which includes parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

“When you say ‘tornado alley, people think Great Plains, and rightfully so,” said Grady Dixon, an assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor. But from a hazard-assessment perspective, “we don’t think it’s wise to consider the Southeast as a separate entity or some sort of afterthought.”