What was the biggest weather event in our area during 2011?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tushka Tornado Anniversary And Severe Weather Season!

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Severe weather has already begun to impact parts of the country and will only continue to worsen as we get into late March.  Texas and Oklahoma have seen relatively quiet weather in terms of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but that will change later this week and into next week.  We spent part of the day in Tushka, Oklahoma, which is in Atoka County, assessing the recovery efforts and speaking to long time residents of the town. 

The town is slowly rebuilding and it's amazing how strong the residents of Tushka are.  I spoke to a few of them after the tornado and again today, almost a year after the tornado, and their resilience is motivating.  If you're not familiar with the tornado, here's a brief summary of what occurred on April 14th, 2011. 

A sharp dryline was advancing eastward across Oklahoma and Texas along with a strong upper level storm system which moved into the Southern Plains on the afternoon of the April 14th.  By noon the dryline had stalled just west of I-35.  A very strong capping inversion prevented thunderstorm development until further daytime heating took place; once the cap was overcome, violent thunderstorms developed in Oklahoma and north Texas.  (The Storm Prediction Center had a moderate risk area east of a line from Cushing, Oklahoma down to Durant, Oklahoma; Tushka was included in the moderate risk.)

(Satellite image, courtesy NWS. Notice the thunderstorms developing off of the dryline in Oklahoma and Texas.)
Here's a brief rundown of what occurred on April 14th, 2011:

By 3:41pm there were several severe thunderstorm warnings in place including one on a storm that impacted Pontotoc County, Garvin County, and Murray County in southern Oklahoma.  It's now 4:12pm and the NWS issues its first Tornado Warning of the day for a storm that's in Pontotoc County, Garvin County, and Murray County.  5:29pm and storms continue to fire along the dryline that's near the I-35 corridor; a tornado warning is issued for a storm that's in Johnston County, Marshall County, and Carter County.  This is the same storm that produced the deadly tornado in Tushka, Oklahoma.  This tornadic storm continues to advance eastward just north of the Red River causing sporadic damage in Carter County and Marshall County.  By 6:15pm a tornado warning has been issued for Atoka and Bryan County in Oklahoma.  At 6:36pm storm spotters observed a tornado near Milburn, Oklahoma moving east at 30mph.  This tornado continued and at 6:54pm was located near Fillmore moving ENE directly for Atoka County. At 7:16pm the NWS continued the tornado warning for Atoka County stating that the storm had a history of producing tornadoes and was moving towards Tushka.

(Here's a look at the radar at 7:20pm, courtesy KXII-TV.)
7:25pm, the NWS issued a warning stating that a violent tornado was two miles west of Tushka heading due east for the city; they warned all resident to take shelter immediately.  At 7:37pm, the tornado had moved through Tushka and was heading towards southern Atoka; several reports of damage and injuries were already reported by this time.  This tornadic storm continued into the evening as it moved ENE out of Atoka County.  Several minutes after the violent tornado moved through Atoka County another tornado was issued for the county due to a thunderstorm that was showing signs of rotation in western Atoka County.  (By the time the second tornado warning was issued for Atoka County my news team had already arrived in Tushka; they were immediately taken down into the community storm shelter which is located near the Tushka Schools.)  The tornado outbreak of April 14th, 2011 was dangerous and produced several tornadoes that unfortunately caused 40 injuries in and 2 deaths in Atoka County.

(Graphic displaying the southern Oklahoma tornadoes, courtesy NWS.)
I worked at KXII-TV during the Tushka tornado, and I will always remember this event.  The stories I have heard were truly devastating and I realized how precious life is; it also reinforced how powerful mother nature is.  It was great seeing how strong these people are almost a year after the tornado that changed their lives forever. 

Looking ahead to the near future Texas and Oklahoma will experience very spring-like conditions with thunderstorms possible, some of which could be severe.  Tuesday night and Wednesday a very low chance for thunderstorms will exist across north Texas, but the cap will likely prevent most convection.  Thursday will feature a better chance for thunderstorms across Oklahoma and Kansas which could become severe. 

Another system will move overhead Friday giving Texoma another chance for thunderstorms.  A noteworthy system to watch is one that will impact us after next weekend.  Right now it appears a deep trough will have adequate moisture, shear, and instability to work with; we could be looking at our first high impact outbreak of the season in Oklahoma and Texas.  This is several days out, so continue to check back for the latest updates. 

We at Texoma Weather (primoweather.com) believe this tornado season will be above average with several record breaking outbreaks.  Last season wasn't as bad in Oklahoma and Texas as it could have been, but this year will likely be a lot different.  The air mass over the Gulf of Mexico is very moist and unstable for this time of the year; water temperatures are very mild due to the lack of winter in the Southern lower 48.  And with the above average precipitation, diminishing the drought, moisture content in the soil over Texoma is high which will not allow the drylines to mix eastward as quickly, unlike last season. 

Now is the time to prepare for severe weather!  Have a plan, know what to do if a watch is issued, and know what to do if a warning is issued; get a battery operated NOAA weather radio too.  We have lifesaving severe weather tips at http://primoweather.com/severe.html , as well as tornado frequency per month in the United States.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Deadly Tornado Outbreak And Severe Weather Season Outlook!

A line of deadly supercells swept eastward Friday and continue today, bringing misery to parts of the South and leaving behind towns reeling from loss of life and property.  As of this morning rescuers continued to search for survivors in obliterated communities throughout the South and Midwest.  The tornado outbreak killed at least 31 people; unfortunately that number will likely rise.  Of the 31 victims, 14 were in Indiana, 13 in Kentucky, three in Ohio and one in Alabama.  These tornadoes literally wiped towns off of the map.  Today, northern Florida, southern Georgia, southern Alabama and western South Carolina are dealing with the remnants of yesterday's powerful system.  This multi-day outbreak started Tuesday in "Tornado Alley" spawning deadly tornadoes in Kansas and Missouri, and also producing tornadoes in Nebraska.  The system pushed east through the Ohio River Valley, only to be followed by a much higher impact system only 48 hours later.  Even parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas saw thunderstorms from this powerful system, Tuesday night.  The Tuesday-Wednesday storms killed four people; one in Kansas and three in Missouri.  This deadly tornado outbreak is likely the largest March outbreak ever seen.  Unfortunately we haven't even scraped the tip of the iceberg in terms of tornado season/outbreaks.  We at Texoma Weather (primoweather.com) believe this tornado season will be above average with several record breaking outbreaks.  Last season wasn't as bad in Oklahoma and Texas as it could have been, but this year will likely be a lot different.  The air mass over the Gulf of Mexico is very moist and unstable for this time of the year; water temperatures are very mild due to the lack of winter in the Southern lower 48.  And with the above average precipitation, diminishing the drought, moisture content in the soil over Texoma is high which will not allow the drylines to mix eastward as quickly, unlike last season.  Now is the time to prepare for severe weather!  Have a plan, know what to do if a watch is issued, and know what to do if a warning is issued; get a battery operated NOAA weather radio too.  We have lifesaving severe weather tips at http://primoweather.com/severe.html , as well as tornado frequency per month in the United States.  Our next chance for severe weather, here in Texoma, appears to occur on next Wednesday-Thursday.  It's still several days out, but we will keep you all updated.

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