KGOU

Weather and Climate

Weather in Oklahoma can be extreme and dangerous. KGOU is committed to providing resources for being aware of the potential for weather events, continuous coverage when severe weather strikes, and a big-picture view of weather trends and topics.

Our partners in weather coverage are the National Weather Service for forecasts, experts at the National Weather Center, located at the campus of the University of Oklahoma, retired television weatherman and now OU's Consulting Meteorologist-in-Residence Gary England, and for severe weather outbreaks, KOCO-TV's live continuous coverage.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map of Oklahoma as of February 25, 2014.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Save for a tiny corner of far southeast Oklahoma, the entire state is either abnormally dry, or already in drought.

Areas of severe, extreme, and exceptional drought, the worst categories, are still confined to the western part of the state, with far southwest Oklahoma suffering the most. But the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show moderate drought conditions moving east and into Oklahoma City.

Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

When the school shelter advocacy group Take Shelter Oklahoma formed several months ago, its goal was simple: to obtain enough signatures to get a $500 million bond issue on the ballot and use that money to build safe rooms in schools to protect kids from tornadoes. 

The group’s path has become a winding one, the most recent turn was at the State Supreme Court in a fight against Attorney General Scott Pruitt. 

fox_kiyo / Flickr.com

State water officials have announced a series of public meetings across the state on various water conservation plans designed to mitigate water use over the next 50 years.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board, which is hosting the meetings, announced the dates Monday. They will be held March 11 at the Oklahoma Panhandle State University campus in Goodwell, March 12 at the Quartz Mountain Resort near Altus, and March 13 at the Simmons Center in Duncan. Each meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

Taxing Times For Oklahoma Tornado Survivors

Feb 24, 2014
Kate Carlton

While many view tax season as a nuisance, it can be especially frustrating for people struggling to rebound from disasters, like the deadly tornadoes that swept through the state last May.  

Some residents of central Oklahoma lost homes, cars and old tax documents, so they’re confused and unsure how to proceed, and that’s left many tornado alley taxpayers with lots of questions. 

The National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

Friday’s edition of The Journal Record reveals improper construction and violation of building codes led to the destruction of two Moore, Okla. elementary schools when a tornado hit May 20, 2013.

KGOU’s Kurt Gwartney talked with the reporter, M. Scott Carter, who obtained a soon-to-be released report showing a shocking lack of standard building practices in both Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools.

Andrea Booher / FEMA

The death of seven students in the tornado that hit Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School last May has ignited an ongoing debate about storm shelters and school safety.

State lawmakers and advocacy groups are calling for better school construction to protect kids from future storms, and some people are now also raising questions about whether they should simply keep their kids home when severe weather is in the forecast. 

The National Weather Service unveiled a new training video Wednesday for storm spotters and chasers with the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the tragedy that followed the May 31, 2013 tornado near El Reno.

Al Jazeera English / Flickr Creative Commons

Drought and agriculture don’t mix very well. So after three years of intense drought, you might expect rural western Oklahoma communities — where fortunes have traditionally hinged on the condition of wheat crops — to be dying on the vine.

But no. As The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports, many of these towns are adapting to a new economy with a little help from the oil and gas industry.

The National Guard

In her State of the State address last week, Gov. Mary Fallin discussed her plan to build storm shelters in schools across the state. The speech came the same day a school shelter advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the governor for not promptly responding to its open records request. Fallin’s apparent change of course is not unusual, but its timing has raised some eyebrows.   

When Danni Legg entered the Governor’s office last week, she was looking for answers.

Mike Prendergast / SkyWatcherMedia.com

Texas and Oklahoma led the nation in the number of tornadoes last year. Oklahoma's 79 was well above the state's average of 57.

Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, told the Tulsa World newspaper the national total of 898 tornadoes was well below normal, which is about 1,000.

Florida, Kansas and Texas typically each have more tornadoes per year than Oklahoma. Texas had 81 last year.

In an experimental pasture at the Grazinglands Research Laboratory near El Reno, Okla., ecologist Brian Northup collects samples to describe availability and quality of forage.
Stephen Ausmus / U.S. Department of Agriculture

The federal government will use a grassland laboratory near El Reno to research the regional effects of climate change for U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

The Grazinglands Research Laboratory was picked to be one of the country’s seven “climate hubs,” where federal and state agencies, university scientists and other researchers will generate data to help landowners “adapt and adjust their resource management,” federal officials said in a statement.

The Italian Voice / Flickr Creative Commons

The Obama administration is proposing today to create seven regional “climate hubs” with the goal of helping farmers and rural communities combat the most serious effects of climate change: drought, floods, pests and fires.

The move is taking place by executive action and will not go to Congress for approval. The hubs will represent a broad swath of the country’s rural regions and will include Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico.

FEMA Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator Wayne Rickard assess Northmoor Elementary School during a Safe Schools 101 session
Christopher Mardorf / FEMA

Ever since a series of deadly tornadoes rattled the state in May, destroying two elementary schools, the idea of building safe rooms has become much more prominent. After all, according to one study released shortly after the storms, more than 60% of Oklahoma’s schools have no shelter at all. Now the Department of Emergency Management is taking steps to fix that. 

Retired Col. Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, stands in front of a dam at Lake Eufaula.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The fact that lakes in eastern Oklahoma are full, and last year was wetter than normal for many areas of the state makes some people think the three-year drought is over.

Those people would be wrong, according to state Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.

Teague joined Oklahoma Water Resources Board Executive Director J.D. Strong Friday at the state capitol for a press conference updating the state’s drought situation.

Kate Carlton

In the eight months since a series of severe storms battered the state, much of the recovery has been focused on people repairing their homes and putting their lives back together. But the tornados also displaced and injured hundreds of wild animals, and one organization took steps to help those animals even after it was hit by a storm itself. 

duggar11 / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin says Oklahomans should implement water conservation practices as drought and dry conditions continue in the state.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says more than 64 percent of Oklahoma remains in a drought. Those conditions will affect water availability throughout the state, particularly in southwestern Oklahoma where sustained, exceptionally dry conditions have led to record low lake levels along the Red River.

Current burn bans in Oklahoma (JANUARY 23, 2014)
Oklahoma Forestry Service

11 Oklahoma counties have now issued burn bans because of high fire danger, with bans in Edmond and Oklahoma City extending indefinitely — or “until the city gets more moisture and the situation improves,” District Chief Marc Woodard told The Oklahoman:

The Italian Voice / Flickr Creative Commons

Lake Texoma’s level was about 609 feetlast week, down from 612 feet two months ago. The lake can only be used for hydropower until levels drop to 590 feet.

Animal Resource Center

In the days and weeks following the May 20 tornado, an estimated 850 pets were lost and shuffled between individuals’ homes, triage clinics and shelters. Most of them were eventually reunited with their owners, but eight months later, nearly a third have been adopted by new families, since their original owners were never able to be found. 

The latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor as of Jan. 14, 2014.
Provided / U.S. Drought Monitor

Oklahoma got a reminder this week that — despite a wet year for many parts of the state — drought continues to rage in other areas, mainly the south and southwest.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated counties in 11 states as primary natural disaster areas because of the drought, including 20 counties in Oklahoma.

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