Tornado Alley Tourists: Vacationers Seeking a Thrill Head to the Midwest

I recently jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet with my children Hannah and Max, but I’m not sure that I would want to mimic so-called “Tornado Alley” tourists. According to recent reports, an increasing number of people are taking vacations in the Midwest just to experience one of mother nature’s most powerful and dramatic weather events.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota recently studied these tornado tourists and their guides, who charge up to $5,000 (not including lodging and food) for van or SUV tours that can last up to two weeks. Overall, the researchers discovered that tornado tourists are attracted to the risk associated with being around a natural disaster (imminent death) as well as the natural beauty of severe weather events. The guides, who lead tornado tourists on these wild adventures, are usually meteorologists or veteran storm chasers (think of the movie Twister) who operate between 3 and 10 tours a season.

During the 2009 study period, the researchers found that nearly 50% of the tornado tourists were from the U.S., a third came from Europe, 13% from Canada, and 11% from Australia. In addition, the average tourist is a single, childless, middle-aged male with a higher-than-average income. While only one-third of the 2009 tourists actually got to see a tornado, most still reported that they were satisfied with their experience. However, what might be most revealing in the study is that the researchers did not mention how many tourists died or got injured during their vacation. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be signing up any time soon.

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