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.

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.

dead fish in dry riverbed
OakleyOriginals / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal officials have designated portions of Oklahoma and 10 other western and central states as primary natural disaster areas because of a drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement Wednesday also includes counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, and California.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that he sympathizes with farmers and ranchers who are dealing with the lack of rain and snow, and assured them that the USDA will stand by them.

2013 Warmer, Wetter Than Average For The Contiguous US

Jan 15, 2014

Tornadoes killed 54 people in 2013, even though the number of twisters was below average. The National Climatic Data Center has its year-end report on weather across the nation and the globe.

Art Feeds

Meg Bourne is the founder of Art Feeds, a non-profit organization based in Joplin, Missouri, which expanded to trauma therapy after an F5 tornado swept through her city in 2011. 

She remembers seeing the media coverage from Oklahoma and thinking it was all too familiar. 

“On the day of the disaster, it really resonated with us watching all these news stories because it looked exactly like Joplin and what we had experienced in Joplin, and all we could think was, ‘How do we get to those kids?’” she said.

The deaths of at least 21 people are now being blamed on the winter storms and severe cold weather that have gripped much of the nation since late last week, The Associated Press reported early Wednesday.

At least half have been attributed to weather-related traffic accidents. The wire service adds that:

outdoor thermometer in single digits
RiverRatt3 / Flickr Creative Commons

Dozens of schools across Oklahoma called off classes as bitterly cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chill indexes were reported.

The Oklahoma City and Tulsa school districts - the state's two largest - are among those cancelling classes for Monday.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning for Ottawa and Craig counties until noon Monday and a wind chill advisory for all but far southern and parts of southwestern Oklahoma.

Traffic sits at a standstill I-40 eastbound through downtown Oklahoma City early Thursday morning. Freezing fog caused icy bridges and overpasses in parts of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has closed part of Interstate 40 eastbound in Oklahoma City because of multiple accidents and icy conditions.

The highway patrol says it closed I-40 eastbound at the Dallas and Fort Smith junctions because of the accidents and road conditions. A freezing fog advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday.

The highway patrol says the closure includes the ramps for southbound Interstate 235 and northbound Interstate 35 to eastbound Interstate 40.

There were no immediate reports of injuries with the crashes.

hyku / Flickr / Creative Commons

The 90-day time period for collecting those signatures ran out last week, and supporters were 35,000 signatures short. They’re now awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge, claiming the deck was stacked against them.

After Kristi Conatzer lost her daughter Emily in the tornado that hit Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School on May 2o, she got together with others to form “Take Shelter Oklahoma.”

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