severe weather

A tornado touches down near Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9, 2016.
Hayden Mahan

The Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City is bustling with activity on a sunny day as people push strollers, walk dogs and feed the ducks. It’s a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon right now, but it’s springtime in Oklahoma, so the weather can change at any time.

“When it starts raining, is when I start looking at the messages,” Devonte Thibodeax said as walked along the garden’s waterway with Michaela Schweiger.

“If my iPhone does those alerts, where it goes off, that’s when we know something is actually happening,” Schweiger said.

An airman kneels and prays in the Moore neighborhood south of Plaza Towers Elementary School.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma


Tornado season is upon us. Oklahoma saw powerful storms last week, and state and local emergency management leaders continue to grapple with questions about preparation.

What else can local governments and the state do to improve public safety? Are there new ways to fund private, school or community shelters? What can individuals do beyond the obvious to protect themselves, and what does the research show?

Extreme Weather Hits Oklahoma Over Holiday Weekend

Nov 30, 2015

Ice, flooding and earthquakes – Oklahoma saw all three over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. As residents wait for the power lines to thaw and the floodwaters to recede, Here & Now’s Indira Lakshmanan, speaks with state climatologist Gary McManus about the extreme weather conditions, and whether this is the new normal for the state.

Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

The Democratic leader in the Oklahoma House is joining a growing chorus of state legislators asking Gov. Mary Fallin to call a special session to address county roads and bridges damaged or destroyed by heavy flooding. 

Rep. Scott Inman said Thursday he wants the Legislature to access as much as $175 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund to help county commissioners pay for extensive damage that resulted from record-breaking rainfall this month.

Southeastern and central Oklahoma will see a chance for strong winds, large hail and a possibility of tornadoes Sunday afternoon and evening.
National Weather Service

A storm system will develop over northern Texas and southern Oklahoma this afternoon and evening that could produce damaging winds and large hail, and the potential for tornadoes. 

The most likely area for severe weather this afternoon runs south and east of a line from Clinton to Ada. The strongest storms could produce baseball to softball size hail, 60 to 70 mile per hour winds and a low potential for tornadoes. The possibility for tornadoes is greatest in southwestern Oklahoma and northern Texas.

Kurt Gwartney / Eastern Oklahoma Region - American Red Cross

Updated at 10:58 a.m. with the name of the victim, and declaration of a state of emergency

Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County following a tornado that struck Quapaw that destroyed the fire station and at least five businesses and other structures. Damage assessments continue Monday.

Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions to deliver materials and supplies to needed jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance.

Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service

The National Weather Service says it’s starting to get a better idea of the timing of severe storms expected to hit the state Saturday and Sunday.

Thunderstorms will start to develop late afternoon and early evening Saturday in far southwestern Oklahoma, moving northeast overnight into Sunday.

Large, damaging hail and damaging winds are the primary concern, but tornadoes are possible.

Jamin Yeager / Aerial Oklahoma

As the state prepares for another round of severe weather Saturday, city officials in Moore are worried about residents taking shelter in a local movie theater that held up well during the May 20, 2013 tornado.

“People think that the Warren Theatre is magic,” said National Severe Storms Laboratory senior scientist Harold Brooks. “The Warren Theatre was basically not hit by the tornado. It survived [as well as] it did because it didn't get hit by the tornado.”

Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service

Updated April 23, 2014 at 3:17 p.m.

Scattered severe storms could develop along a dry line developing over the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle Wednesday, but National Weather Service meteorologists are starting to predict the possibility of a more significant severe weather threat this weekend.

Forecaster Marc Austin says the main hazards Wednesday consist of baseball-sized hail, and damaging 70-80 mile-per-hour wind gusts.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s little doubt Oklahomans will be more sensitive and more concerned than usual as the spring storm season approaches after the devastating events of May 2013. Dozens of people died as three violent tornadoes tore across Pottawatomie, Canadian and Cleveland counties within a two-week span.

Since September, KGOU has been working to prepare for severe weather in 2014 with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On March 12, we hosted a panel discussion about tornado preparedness and storm safety at the Moore Public Library, just a few hundred yards from where the May 20 twister crossed Interstate 35.

We learned six things you need to know to prepare for the 2014 tornado season:

Flooding Takes Oklahoma City Man's Life

Aug 9, 2013
Oklahoma Mesonet

Severe thunderstorms moved through central Oklahoma Thursday night causing flooding and power outages across the area.

Oklahoma City police say a 60-year-old man drowned while trying to rescue a relative who was stranded by floodwaters.

Police say the man was swept into a drainage canal and drowned early Friday in northwest Oklahoma City. Police say the relative, who was stranded in a car, escaped without injury.

That incident happened near NW 122nd and Pennsylvania. Police reported water over the roadway there with three stalled cars in the intersection.

boy walking through rubble
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since the deadly tornadoes that struck the state this spring, StateImpact has been taking a look at Oklahoma’s severe weather policy, and asking questions like: Why aren’t there more safe rooms in schools?

GovMaryFallin / Twitter

Gov. Mary Fallin says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved public assistance for 16 counties hit by May storms that brought tornadoes and flooding to Oklahoma.

Fallin said FEMA approved the request on Friday that she submitted Wednesday.

The storms caused an estimated $40 million in uninsured infrastructure losses, and debris removal and response costs.

FEMA says disaster assistance for the state now tops $25 million dollars.

GovMaryFallin / Twitter

Governor Mary Fallin joined Newcastle lawmakers and officials Friday to view storm damage and recovery efforts in the community following last month's storms.

Fallin took a driving tour of the community Friday afternoon. After viewing the area, the governor met with responders and local officials at the City Command Center.

boy walking through rubble
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Seven children were killed at an elementary school in Moore when a massive tornado tore through the area last month.

And the disaster has led to questions about why Oklahoma used previous federal disaster money to build more than 10,000 storm shelters in homes, but only 85 in public schools.

Getting the answer means going back to another major storm, on May 3rd, 1999, and another state.