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tornado

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.

Damage from a May 6, 2015 tornado in south Oklahoma City.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma City council approved an update to the city’s outdoor warning siren system on Tuesday that should reduce over-warnings by up to 68 percent and eliminate false warnings.

Oklahoma City has 182 warning sirens that span three counties. Currently, any National Weather Service tornado warning in Oklahoma, Cleveland or Canadian County would activate all the sirens in that county.

Under the new plan, the city is divided into nine sectors. Sirens will only be activated in the sectors that are under threat of a tornado.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Preliminary damage reports from Wednesday’s storms show multiple EF-2 tornadoes hit the metro area. The severe weather injured dozens of people and killed at least one. Residents across the state are trying to get back on their feet. 

Paul L. McCord Jr. / Flickr Creative Commons

A small tornado that touched ground briefly in Arcadia has been rated an EF0 by the National Weather Service in Norman.

Weather service meteorologist Marc Austin said Monday that the tornado caused no damage and appeared to have been on the ground for 30 seconds or less in the small town in the northeastern Oklahoma City metro.

The preliminary rating for the Sunday afternoon twister is the smallest given by the weather service and indicates wind speeds of 40-72 mph.

David Slane and Danni Legg (center) ask the public for petition signatures as a "last ditch effort" to get a school safe room issue on a future ballot.
Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

A group that wants storm shelters in every Oklahoma school has spent the last 90 days gathering signatures to get its initiative petition on the ballot. Take Shelter Oklahoma is still tens of thousands of signatures short of the required amount, but proponents now have more time than they originally thought. 

Ben and Kristen Jones stand on their empty lot that Rebuilding Together OKC is building using United Way tornado donations.
Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

In the wake of last year’s devastating tornadoes, millions of dollars in donations went to The United Way of Central Oklahoma. The non-profit organization also agreed to administer Governor Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Strong tornado relief campaign. Together, the funds raised a total of $20 million. 

One week after the tornado hit the city of Moore in May of 2013, country singer Blake Shelton showed up to host a benefit concert called Healing in the Heartland.

The City of Moore's Shane Speegle inspects one home that is subject to the city's newer, more stringent building code.
Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

This March, Moore, Oklahoma became the first city in the nation to adopt a tornado-specific building code. City officials wanted homes to be able to withstand an EF-2 or EF-3 tornado.

But six months after the new regulations took effect, it turns out not all new homes built in the tornado’s path will have these upgrades.

Last week, on a block near Moore’s rebuilt Plaza Towers Elementary School, city official Shane Speegle walked through one house that had just been framed to check the progress.

StateFarm / Flickr Creative Commons

After a series of severe storms swept through the state in May of last year, insurance carriers paid out over $1 billion in claims, making it the nation’s most costly disaster of 2013.

Most insurance issues have now been settled, but many homeowners are looking at higher rates than they were paying before the storm.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

With threats ranging from ice storms to tornadoes, Oklahoma ranks first in the nation in the number of presidentially declared disasters over the past 14 years.

That’s why the state says it's important for local officials to maintain hazard mitigation plans, explaining the steps they're taking to reduce or eliminate their risks. But keeping things up-to-date has proven tough. 

Wesley Fryer / Flickr Creative Commons

After last year’s tornadoes in central Oklahoma, FEMA allocated $4 million in hazard mitigation funding for communities to safeguard against future severe weather.

The City of Moore didn’t qualify for that money because of an expired hazard mitigation plan. Moore has since updated the plan and is now eligible for future FEMA money. But it doesn’t look like officials plan on applying for that funding any time soon.

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