Why doesn’t Chicago get tornadoes?

Dear Tom,

Why doesn’t Chicago get tornadoes? Is it because of Lake Michigan?

William Filippi,
Vernon Hills

Dear William,
Chicago and the Chicago area do experience tornadoes. One of the worst tornadoes to occur in the metropolitan area was the Plainfield tornado on August 28, 1990. That horrific storm caused 29 deaths and 353 injuries, though it didn’t occur within Chicago’s city limits. Thirteen tornadoes have occurred within the city limits since 1855, with a total death toll of 13 people. The most recent tornado in Chicago was on Sept. 22, 2006, on the Loyola University campus near Sheridan and Devon. The tornado touched down briefly, causing no deaths or injuries, then moved over Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan’s effect on Chicago tornadoes is variable. When winds blow from land to lake, there is no effect. When “lake winds” occur, the effect is to reduce the tornado threat.

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