Tornado Alley is in the Plains, but the Southeast is the country's twister death row.
Although more twisters hit Tornado Alley - the states that run from Texas up through Oklahoma, Kansas and into Nebraska - more people are killed by the tornadoes that hit in Dixie.The reasons given for the disparity include the different housing, geography and population density and the greater tendency of tornadoes in the Southeast to strike at night.
Between 1950 and 1997, the Tornado Alley states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri had 13,808 tornadoes, according to data compiled by the National Storm Prediction Center and analyzed by the Associated Press. In those storms, 1,132 people died.
In Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, there were 9,178 tornadoes and 1,648 deaths.
For example, Alabama, where more than 30 people were killed by tornadoes late Wednesday, ranked third in the nation in the number of tornado deaths during that 47-year period, with 290 killed. It ranked only 13th in the actual number of tornadoes.
One major factor making the Southeast more dangerous when tornadoes strike may be the number of mobile homes there. Census figures show the Southeastern states have more mobile homes than other regions of the country.
Mobile homes are more vulnerable to violent weather, and in trailer parks, potential victims are closer together.
"Over the last couple of years over half the deaths in tornadoes have been in mobile homes or in vehicles," said Joe Schaefer, director of the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Another explanation is that houses in the Southeast often don't have basements because the underground water level is so high, said Tom Priddy, an agricultural meteorologist at University of Kentucky. As a result, people can't take refuge in the cellar.
Also, tornadoes in the Southeast are more likely to hit at night, because they are powered by cold fronts instead of the heat of the sun, Schaefer said. "They hit down there when people are asleep and can't be warned," he said.
Scientists also cite population density and geography. In the Midwestern and Plains states, a tornado can go miles without hitting anybody, because the region is so sparsely populated.
The wide-open geography of the Plains may also allow more warning than the hilly Southeast. "You can see things coming here (in Oklahoma) that you can't see there," Schaefer said.