Friday, February 27, 2009


In response to Liz's request a while back, here are some common weather and tornado myths:

1) It can be too cold to snow......false!
-The colder the air temperature, the less snow that will probably fall, but this is due to the fact that cold air can not hold as much moisture as warm air. So if enough moisture can be squeezed out, it can snow at any temperature.

2) Skyscrapers help protect downtown areas from tornadoes.....false!
-We don't hear of downtowns being hit by tornadoes very often, but consider the miniscule land area that they cover in proportion to the whole country. That is why they aren't hit very often. However, four downtowns have been hit over the last ten years: Fort Worth, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta. I think it may be possible that a weak tornado could be disturbed by tall buildings. However, I don't think a mile-wide tornado that extends six miles vertically in a thunderstorm would care if a skyscraper was in the way. By the way, I believe the downtown area of Oklahoma City is long overdue for a tornado.

3) Violent tornadoes are confined to "tornado alley"........false!
-Here is a list of F5 tornadoes outside of "tornado alley"
Flint, Michigan, 1953
Fargo, North Dakota, 1957
Tracy, Minnesota, 1968
Wheatland, Pennsylvania, 1985
Elie, Manitoba, Canada, 2007

4) An overpass is a better tornado shelter than a ditch.......false!
-The higher you are above ground, the stronger the wind. So why would you go up an embankment inside a virtual wind tunnel to get away from tornadic winds? Tornadic winds are greatly diminished right at ground-level, so you are much better off to lie in a ditch. Many deaths and life-altering injuries on May 3, 1999 occurred underneath overpasses.

5) Oklahoma is the most tornado-prone state in the U.S.......true and false!
-Technically, Florida has more tornadoes per square mile, but they are mainly the weak variety. Also, while Oklahoma statistically has more significant tornadoes per square mile than any other state, we are really only using 50 years of data out of thousands of years that tornadoes have been occurring here. There are trends that show tornado alley "shifts" every once in a while. Sometimes the S.E. U.S. seems to get more tornado outbreaks over a multi-year timespan. Last year Kansas set a record for most tornadoes recorded in that state in one year, while Oklahoma had an average year. (Disclaimer: Our house has been within one mile of two tornadoes the past two years. I think we have a mini-tornado alley near our house)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not a Forecast, But a Gut Feeling

It appears the first couple of weeks of March will be active with severe weather, possibly affecting Oklahoma, Texas, and points east. In fact, the weather pattern shaping up for Spring is remarkably similar to last year. Last year we had many dry strecthes during the Spring, but they were intermingled with tornado outbreaks, which mainly spared Oklahoma (except for Picher) and hit Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri particularly hard. We would be extremely lucky to escape the major tornado outbreaks again this year. Gary England should probably start building up his sleep reserves right now......

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Thoughts......OKC Tornado History

Here is a dual-purpose blog. First I would like to share a few thoughts from the Edmond/Lone Grove tornado outbreak. Second, I ran across an article from the National Weather Service accounting for OKC tornado history since 1890 that I would like to share. I found it pretty interesting.

-First off, I saw my first "real" rotation in a supercell thunderstorm from the 2nd floor of my office, looking 2 miles to my west at the first tornado touchdown on NW Expressway and Rockwell. This wasn't weenie circulation; I could see the entire base of the storm rotating, and it was illuminated with a bright white coloring in the clouds from the hail that was falling. I could not see a tornado beause of the rain. It was amazing.

-As crazy as this sounds, we are fortunate that the storms trained over the same areas for a couple of hours. Unless, of course, you were on the train route. The first storm that produced the F2 tornado in Edmond used a lot of available energy in the atmosphere around the locations it passed, so the subsequent storms had less fuel to work with. They were rotating, but did not put down tornadoes. If the next 2-3 storms in the line had each been progressively further east, I strongly believe that each would have produced tornadoes, possibly stronger than the first one. Thank goodness that disaster didn't happen.

-For as much as we know about the weather, we know twice as little. The same set of conditions that transpired Tuesday could come together again, but produce no tornadoes. After the storms became a line that evening, it appeared the tornado threat was over. Then a lone shower popped up in front of the main line in Texas, became a lone, renegade storm, and crossed the Red River to put down an F4 tornado in Lone Grove. Within an hour the line had swallowed the storm, ending the tornado threat for good.

The following is a look at a few historical OKC tornadoes. 125 tornadoes have struck within city limits since 1890. 8 of these were rated F4, and only 1 F5 (we all know which one that was). I have selected some noteworthy ones. Remember, wherever you live in OKC you pretty much are at the same risk as anyone else......a tornado in the past moving over your area or not moving over your area means nothing when it comes to future risk. If you do the math, only 5% of OKC tornadoes have been violent.

April 25, 1893, 3:30PM
31 deaths

At times, this tornado was reported to have been over 1.25 miles wide. It closely paralled the track of the May 3, 1999 and May 8, 2003 tornadoes.

2)April 20, 1912, 3:45PM
Large, elephant trunk that could be seen from downtown

The approximate path of this tornado was from 3 miles west of Yukon, to Memorial & Penn, to 4 miles east of Edmond. A school near Yukon was leveled 15 minutes after the students were let out for the day.

3)Notice the Odd Date & Time....
November 19, 1930, 9:30AM
23 deaths

One-fourth of Bethany was damaged or destroyed. The path was along the eastern edge of town, and was about 110 yards wide. It moved NNE, probably crossing the intersection of 23rd and Rockwell.

June 12, 1942, 8:41PM
35 deaths

Most deadly OKC tornado until May 3, 1999. Most damage was between SW 27th and 29th between Portland and Independence. Path width was 500 yards.

5)April 30, 1970, 1:00AM

This tornado cut a path 47 miles long and up to one-half mile wide. It went through the center of OKC, crossing the I-40/I-44 interchange and what is currently I-235 near 36th Street. 1,473 homes, 293 businesses, 8 schools, 12 churches, and 300 signs were damaged. Amazingly, there were no fatalities.

6)Extreme NW OKC
April 30, 1978, 6:20PM

Moved from just south of Piedmont to near Covell/Coffee Creek and Portland. Large tornado that was at least a mile wide at times. Oil storage tanks, cars, and stock feeders were lifted and carried up to a half-mile.

7)May 8, 1986, 6:12PM

Moved from 150th & Western and moved NNE, then NE, then east towards Edmond. The Fairfax addition was hardest hit.

8)October 2, 1986, 9:07AM

This tornado actually formed from the remnants of a hurricane. It started near May and Wilshire and ended on Hefner Road between May and Penn.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unbelievable February Day......Edmond & Lone Grove

Wow. I am in a somber mood right now because it appears the path of the tornado that damaged NW Expressway and Rockwell and also North Edmond appears to have tracked almost directly over our housing addition. It just so happens the tornado touched down a couple of miles after passing us. We were very lucky. We are thankful that everyone is OK that was affected, and that we are OK.

After looking at the video, I believe there is some EF-3 damage in Edmond. This would be the strongest tornado to hit Edmond since 1986. It would also be only the second F-3 tornado in February in Oklahoma history.

On a sad note, please pray for the people of Lone Grove, just outside of Ardmore. It appears a large tornado, possibly up to 3/4 of a mile-wide, made a direct hit on the community. Also, there are reports the tornado sirens did not sound. I think there is going to be some sad news coming out of there.

Dangerous Severe Weather

If you have friends or family that live in eastern Oklahoma, northeastern Texas, or southern Arkansas, you may want to give them a heads-up that some significant severe weather is possible later this afternoon and tonight. It appears possible that these areas could have a cluster of several tornadoes, some of which could be large. Also, a squall line will develop and race across Oklahoma and Texas later in the evening, and the strength of the upper-level wind fields suggest destructive winds of up to 80MPH will be possible as the line races through. As of now, OKC is sitting right on the edge of the threat area. Storms may develop overhead in the early evening, then quickly strengthen as they move east of here. Hopefully we will dodge this bullet.

I have a feeling we could see between 10-20 tornadoes in the highest threat areas that I mentioned above. I will post an update today around Noon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stay Tuned....

Tuesday evening is shaping up as possibly the first tornado outbreak of 2009. We're talking temperatures in the 70's, strong moisture return from the SE, and a strong storm system producing SW Jet Stream winds close to 90MPH by Tuesday evening! Right now the area of greatest concern is north-central Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. However, the computer models have been trending towards the system moving out slower, which in turn would move the threat area back further west. We should know more about the threat area later today. I do have to say I have a pretty good feeling that there will be tornadoes in the state Tuesday night. We'll just have to see exactly where.

Right now OKC is looking at the possibility of some storms Tuesday night, which could produce hail and strong wind, but as of now I'll say the tornado threat will remain east of here. This could definitely change, however.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jessica Asked.......

Give your prediction on the kind of spring and summer we'll have. Dry? hot? Rainy?

Here is what my best guesstimate is for Spring and Summer:

The rest of February will be fairly stormy with 5-6 storms traversing (I like that word) across the Plains. Some severe weather will be possible, but the main benefit will be repeated chances of rain. I really don't see much snow in store for us.

We'll probably get one more shot of cold air in early March before Spring starts setting in. If we get no more snow it will be one of the least snowiest Winters in Oklahoma City history.

For Spring as a whole (March-May), I think we might be a tad drier and a tad warmer than normal. La Nina has kicked in over the Pacific, which tends to give us drier weather. However, even though we may get fewer storms, they may be more potent. The event of May 3, 1999 occurred during a La Nina year. Don't worry, May 3 might have been a once in a lifetime event. However, I will predict at least one larger than normal tornado outbreak during April or May.

Even though Summer is a ways out, I will go with slightly drier and slightly warmer than normal.

By the way, my prediction for Winter was colder and drier than normal. So far the drier than normal has been correct, but temperatures have been slightly above normal so far.

Liz, you're next!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reader's Choice

OK, I submit a challenge to the 9 people that read my blog on a regular basis.........I need some ideas for posts. What are some topics you would like for me to write about? Anything goes......anything that is family friendly, that is.

We should get some good, soaking rain this Sunday night through Monday morning. In fact, there is even a chance of some severe weather Sunday night, with the main risks being hail and damaging winds. Hopefully we can put a dent in the drought that is beginning to take hold across the state.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Change is in the Air.....

I am definitely looking forward to the end of this week. How about 68 on Thursday and Friday! Spring is definitely my favorite season and I can't wait for it to be here, but I know better than to think Winter is over. In fact, some of the heaviest snowfalls in Oklahoma have come during the month of March, so we've got another couple of months before we can kiss goodbye to Winter.

The change that is in the air is going to be a weather pattern change that will bring more storms and moisture our way this weekend and the next week or so after that. This is a good thing considering how dry it is starting to get around here. It looks like enough warm air and humidity will be here Sunday and Monday for some storms, maybe even some low-end severe weather. After that it appears we may have 2-3 more storms the next week to bring some much needed rain. As of now I don't think snow is in the picture, it will feel more like early April than February!