Deadly February Tornadoes Rare

Wednesday, February 11th 2009, 6:07 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- "If you don't like the weather in Oklahoma, wait five minutes." That's the old saying, and Tuesday, that saying showed how changeable and unpredictable Oklahoma's weather can be.

Tornadoes in February are a rarity in Oklahoma. But weather experts at the National Weather Center in Norman said they can occur, and with deadly results.

Oklahoma has had February tornadoes before. David Andra with the National Weather Service said Tuesday's weather conditions were a bit unusual.

"What was unusual about yesterday was the air mass was more like an April air mass. It was quite unstable and had strong wind shear, and those are the conditions that form rotating thunderstorms," said Andra.

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  • The deadly May 1999 tornado hit the metro area from the south. One of Tuesday's tornadoes touched down in the north metro. Meteorologists saw nothing in that but sheer chance.

    "It's just the randomness. In fact, in 1998 there was a tornado that tracked through Frontier City," Andra said.

    NEWS 9 Chief Meteorologist Gary England said more factors are at work than just randomness, but it's hard to nail them down.

    "The flow of the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico may actually come up and just maybe target an area just a little bit to the south. Maybe the upper storm system comes across a little bit to the south, maybe it's shifted a little bit to the north now. Nobody really, really knows," England said.

    The only certainty seems to be that tornadoes can occur at anytime and anywhere.

    "Back in the '80s, we had a lot of tornadoes in southwest Oklahoma. In the '90s, we had a lot of tornadoes in northern Oklahoma, in 1999, central and northern Oklahoma. And here we are looking at tornadoes in southern Oklahoma," Andra said.

    The randomness with which tornadoes touch down in Oklahoma point to one constant: Oklahomans should always be alert for what comes sweeping down the plain.

    The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit Lone Grove is among the strongest, longer-track tornadoes ever seen, but its exact strength has yet to be determined.