'Dixie Alley' Deadlier than 'Tornado Alley,' Insurance Industry Says

The tornadoes that swept though Suffolk, Va., injuring more than 200 people on Monday, are a timely reminder of how deadly and destructive twisters can be in the southeastern United States, says the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit communications organization supported by the insurance industry. Weather data show that due to the area's population density and close proximity to warm Gulf air, more people have been killed by tornadoes in “Dixie Alley” than on the Great Plains, often referred to as “Tornado Alley,” the organization notes.

Each year about 1,200 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the United States with peak tornado season in the south running from March through May. Though not generally as destructive as hurricanes, tornadoes are more frequent and can also cause severe damage, such as the ones that hit Georgia and South Carolina in mid-March.

No matter where you live--because tornadoes are possible anywhere--you should never try to outrun a tornado, warns the institute, which also offers the following tips: Stay calm and seek shelter. At home or work, find shelter in the central part of the building, away from windows. If possible, go to a basement or lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest lever (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Do not open windows. If you are in your car, abandon your vehicle and seek shelter in the nearest ditch if no other facility is available. Do not get under a bridge or overpass. You are safer in a low, flat location. People living in mobile homes should vacate the premises and seek shelter elsewhere.

The institute has a free brochure, Settling Insurance Claims after a Disaster, available online at www.iii.org/media/publications/brochures/settlingclaim/ or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038. For more information about preparing for a disaster, go to the institute's Disaster Insurance Information Web site, www.iii.org/prepare/home/.

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