KGOU

May 2013 Tornado Coverage

Deadly tornados tore through several Oklahoma communities on May 19, 20 and 31, 2013. These are the stories of natural disaster and its aftermath, and of communities healing and recovering.

Meteorologist Gary England.
Dick Pryor / KGOU

The vast majority of Oklahoma’s tornadoes occur in the spring. Since 1950, approximately 69 percent of the state’s tornadoes have formed in March, April and May, according to the National Weather Service. However, a “secondary storm season” arrives in the autumn, especially in the months of September and October.

KGOU Radio

You may have heard a familiar voice recently on KGOU.

He’s an Oklahoma broadcasting legend, Gary England.

For more than forty years Gary was chief meteorologist at KWTV – predicting the weather with his folksy charm and keeping Oklahomans advised about severe and violent weather.

Oklahomans trusted Gary England to keep them safe, and they still can.

Now, he works out of the University of Oklahoma, and provides his unique weather insights on KGOU.

Researchers fly a copter drone near Enid, Oklahoma on May 16, 2017
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, could help scientists forecast where and when thunderstorms develop, before storm even occur. Experiments are ongoing, and optimism is high.

Meteorologist Rick Smith responds to messages on the National Weather Service Facebook account. On stormy days, the forecast office in Norman often receives messages every few minutes from people worried about tornadoes.
Nomin Ujiyediin / KGOU

When meteorologist Rick Smith was growing up in Memphis in the 1960s and '70s, he was terrified of tornadoes. When storms approached, he glued himself to the weather radio and TV, gathering as much information as he could. At night, he cowered in his parents’ bed, covering his ears to block out the sound.

“It was like this mysterious, loud monster at night that you just didn’t know exactly what it would do to you,” Smith said.

A tornado forms near Banner Road and Praire Circle in El Reno, Okla. on Friday, May 31, 2013.
Alonzo Adams / AP

The National Weather Service issued a preliminary rating for the tornado that hit Elk City last week as an EF-2. The tornado killed one person and destroyed over 40 homes.

Gary England, a consulting meteorologist-in-residence at the University of Oklahoma, says the Enhanced Fujita scale measures damage instead of wind. He says National Weather Service surveyors have to consider the location of damage, the type of damage and how affected houses are built.

National Weather Service

A night of storms brought power outages and damage to trees, buildings and infrastructure to central Oklahoma--and it's not over yet.

The supercell that produced the damaging tornado at Elk City Tuesday evening.
Jeff Piotrowski / twisterchasers.com

Officials in Oklahoma are assessing damage after tornadoes hit the Western part of the state Tuesday evening.

One tornado touched down in Elk City in Beckham County, injuring at least 10 people and killing one.

 

National Weather Service

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency in response to a night of heavy storms that damaged power lines and homes across the state.

The state of emergency will last for 30 days and allows state agencies to make purchases that will contribute to disaster preparedness and relief, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

National Weather Service

Areas of central and southeastern Oklahoma could receive between 2 and 4 inches of rain today, and the National Weather Service is forecasting hail up to the size of golf balls. Winds up to 70 miles per hour are possible.

Risk Of Overnight Storms In Central, Eastern Oklahoma

Apr 20, 2017
National Weather Service

Severe storms on Thursday night and Friday could bring hail the size of golf balls to central and eastern Oklahoma.

 

The National Weather Service is forecasting the chance of severe storms with 60 to 70 mile-per-hour winds and the chance of hail, starting on Thursday at 10 p.m.  The storms may continue until 6 a.m. on Friday. 

 

In this May 19, 2010 file photo taken near Kingfisher, Okla., storm chasers and spectator vehicles clog the road and shoulder of Highway 81.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

 

 

Storm chasers continue to have a central role in documenting tornadoes, according to a leading Oklahoma meteorologist.

Gary England told KGOU that storm chasers give forecasters and meteorologists “eyes on the ground” that radars and other technological advances cannot provide. A human in the field sends back an immediate eye witness account of what is occurring during  storm, like a wall cloud, a funnel cloud or a tornado on the ground.

National Weather Service

Severe thunderstorms, heavy rainfall and flash floods are possible Tuesday and Tuesday night across most of Oklahoma.

The highest risk for severe storms will be in southwestern Oklahoma, including the communities of Lawton and Altus, where the chance is greatest for isolated supercells with large hail and possible tornadoes this afternoon and evening.

As the storms move east, the main threat will be damaging wind, though large hail and tornadoes will remain possible.

A tornado in Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9, 2016.
J.R. Hehnly / OKStorms.com

 

Oklahomans should brace for a storm season was an above-average number of tornadoes, according to meteorologist Gary England.

England told KGOU that a weak La Niña phenomena typically leads to an active tornado season.

“There’s been a bunch of years with a weak La Niña, we had a lot of tornadoes,” England said.

A weak La Niña occurs when temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are slightly below normal.
 

National Severe Storms Laboratory / NOAA

This is the Manager’s Minute.

Most of us have to work hard to pay the bills, watch how much we spend and try to set aside some dollars in case of emergency.

In these days of tightening budgets, KGOU is also just one unexpected event away from being in a financial bind.

Severe storms, power outages, equipment failures, changes in regulations or cuts in funding can force KGOU to dip into precious financial reserves.

The margin is shrinking, even as we grow our impact and service to the people of Oklahoma.

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.

The sun glistens off a cross at a makeshift memorial outside Plaza Towers Elementary School which was destroyed by a tornado nearly a week ago Sunday, May 26, 2013, in Moore, Okla. Monday's huge tornado destroyed the school killing seven students.
Charlie Riedel / AP

A week ago more than half-a-dozen tornadoes struck Oklahoma. Two people were killed in southern Oklahoma, and the EF4 tornado in Wynnewood near Interstate 35 is actually the strongest twister on record in this state in three years.

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