Tornadoes are a hazard for any area, but they're especially dangerous in Oklahoma, a state where tornadoes have killed more than a dozen people and caused billions of dollars in damage.
Weather scientists can't always predict when a tornado will form, but they can use a number of methods to identify potential risks, including rotating funnel-shaped clouds and low-lying debris. If you're in an area at risk, be on the lookout for these warning signs and plan ahead by registering your home's storm shelter with the City.
The Sooner State experiences a high frequency of tornadoes, which are particularly common in April through June. During these months, warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico mixes with cool dry air from Canada and dry, cold air from New Mexico to form thunderstorms that can create twisters.
Oklahoma is part of what is referred to as “Tornado Alley” in the United States, which stretches from northern Texas through Kansas, Nebraska and western Oklahoma, and into eastern South Dakota and eastern Iowa (see figure below). It also includes parts of Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, with an especially high frequency of tornadoes occurring in the spring and summer.
The National Weather Service warns that severe weather should be a serious concern for everyone in Oklahoma Sunday. A strong upper level disturbance and increasing temperatures will combine to bring a line of storms that could result in damaging winds, large hail and an elevated risk for tornadoes. This line of storms will move eastward through the evening hours, potentially impacting southwestern Oklahoma to the Oklahoma City metro and Stillwater.
The Storm Prediction Center has issued tornado and thunderstorm watches since 1966 and is responsible for providing critical warnings in areas that are at risk. The lead forecaster is the person who oversees all other forecasters and focuses on the watches issued for each area.
The National Weather Service has been warning of a severe storm system that could bring strong winds, hail and tornadoes to Oklahoma on Sunday. The system has triggered a tornado watch in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
A large tornado passed near Norman late Sunday, tearing down buildings and damaging roads. The NWS says the storm was clocked at 100 mph with gusts up to 90 mph.
The threat of a tornado may increase in the late afternoon and evening. Those areas are also likely to see some isolated large hail. A few thunderstorms may develop, but these will probably be weak and brief. The SPC is monitoring this event closely and will issue an updated tornado outlook as it progresses.
Storm Surveillance is a weather monitoring and warning system that provides the National Weather Service with a real-time, live feed of storms affecting your area. This information is used to develop tornado watches and warnings, and help you prepare for severe weather in Oklahoma.
When atmospheric conditions favor the development of severe storms and tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center will issue a Tornado Watch. This is for a large area (multiple counties in one or more states) and can last up to 4 hours.
This is when you should take extra precautions to protect yourself and your family. You can do this by signing up for severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service and staying informed about changing weather conditions via your local media or social media.
In the case of a tornado, you may be required to evacuate your home before the storm hits and move to a nearby shelter or public building. This can be a stressful and dangerous experience, and it could result in injuries.
The most severe tornadoes in Oklahoma are rare, but even the least violent tornadoes can be incredibly dangerous. These deadly storms can level buildings and kill if people are not prepared to shelter indoors.
All public building administrators, such as hospitals, schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, sports arenas and offices, should have a tornado safety plan in place with easy-to-read signs that indicate where the nearest safe shelter is located, and how to get there. They should also regularly run well-coordinated drills to ensure that everyone knows what to do.
When a warning is issued, people should move to the basement or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows, such as bathrooms, closets or center hallways. If possible, get under a sturdy piece of furniture like a workbench or heavy table for added protection.