Tornado outbreak expected; prepare to take cover

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The National Weather Service in Tulsa is forecasting a tornado outbreak for Oklahoma tonight, May 24, 2011. Atmospheric conditions are ripe for "strong, long-track tornadoes" of the sort that hit Joplin on Sunday evening, the sort that can rip a long half-mile-wide swath across a city, the sort that hit Moore, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Stroud, and Mulhall on May 3, 1999.

I'm concerned that overzealous weather coverage has made us complacent. The sirens sound at the first sign of rotation in the clouds, and the temptation is to watch the TV to see whether there's really a funnel, and whether it's going to come anywhere near our part of the county, rather than actually taking cover. The odds that an announced tornado warning will result in actual damage within a mile of me seems pretty low. The last time we had any wind-related damage in midtown Tulsa was in 2006, when a microburst destroyed the ferris wheel at Bell's Amusement Park, took the steeple off of Harvard Ave. Baptist Church, and pushed tall oak trees right over.

But it's a potentially deadly mistake to assume that today will be another false alarm. Not only should you make a safe place ready for you and your family, but you should plan to be where you can get to it before the storms hit this evening. You don't want to be outdoors or in a car when the weather hits. Nor do you want to be in a large open-span building like a Walmart or Home Depot or in a glass-walled office tower. Get your errands run early, and get home well before the weather hits. Then make sure you've got batteries, water, flashlights, and a radio ready in your safe place -- whether that's your storm shelter, basement, safe room, or simply an interior hallway with a mattress over your head.

20110524-tornado-okcentral.jpgDon't forget to plan for your pets, and remember that high winds and large hail can cause a great deal of damage as well. In a nutshell, don't leave anything outside that you don't want blown around or bombarded.

When is it likely to hit? The NWS office in Norman says severe thunderstorms, possibly accompanied by large hail and tornadoes, could begin as early as 3 p.m. In eastern Oklahoma the outbreak is expected to begin around 6, but don't put it off preparations until the last minute.

MORE: NWS Norman has information on staying safe in severe weather -- the safest places to be, what you should have with you, and what to do if you're caught away from home when the weather hits.

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Roy said:

Glad to know your long range eagle eye enables keepin' watch, Mike.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 24, 2011 9:57 AM.

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