Many of you have asked for more information about the tornadoes which struck our region on May 22 and May 24, 2011. I've put together this list after consulting data from the Tulsa, Norman and Springfield NWS offices.
The results aren't final as the NWS is still surveying damage. Two of the 21 tornadoes which hit our region haven't been assigned an EF rating yet. 15 of them have been rated EF2 or higher. An EF2 or stronger is considered a "significant tornado".
Weather officials are also examining the EF3 and EF4 tornadoes in central Oklahoma as one or more of them could be upgraded pending further analysis. A friend of mine who specializes in radar meteorology is hinting that an EF5 could be assigned to the Yukon/Piedmont/Guthrie tornado which was on the ground for two hours and travelled 75 miles. I photographed and "chased" this tornado as it moved north of Guthrie-- the scary tornado more resembled a dark cloud on the ground. (Click the photos/images link on this page)
The shocking death toll from the EF5 tornado in Joplin was due to many factors:
- The tornado hit near 5:41pm on a Sunday-- many folks weren't home and may not have been aware of the Tornado Warning. (Many people were killed in stores and parking lots. 7 were killed at one fast food restaurant parking lot, for example.)
- The tornado formed directly over Joplin instead of travelling a long distance into town.
- The tornado intensified in the middle of town.
- The storm producing the tornado moved slower than most, so the tornado wind lasted longer.
- And the obvious: in a violent (EF3, 4 or 5) tornado, sheltering below ground level or in properly built and installed tornado safe rooms are the only 100% safe options.
The Springfield NWS office issued a Tornado Warning for the Joplin area at 5:17pm and the first damage was reported at 5:41pm, so the warning lead time was 24 minutes.
Simply put, I personally think many were just caught off guard. Widespread live video and pictures weren't available ahead of time due to the tornado forming in town instead of travelling a long distance then into Joplin. The lack of "shock value" and lack of awareness/build up likely contributed to some residents not knowing about the threat even though the warning was issued.
Compared to two days later on May 24, the tornadoes in Oklahoma were generally longer track tornadoes, so more live video and pics were available to warn residents. Comparing the tornado tracks, the Joplin tornado was only on the ground for 7 miles while the Yukon/Piedmont/Guthrie tornado travelled 75 miles.
Below is the list of the 21 tornadoes on May 22 and May 24, 2011 within 150 miles of Tulsa:
EF5: (1) Joplin
EF4: (4) El Reno/Piedmont/Guthrie; Goldsby; Chickasha/Newcastle (could be upgraded); Denning AR
EF3: (2) S. Delaware Co; Canton Lake
EF2: (8) Grand Lake; W. Siloam Springs; Payne Co; Wagoner; Haskell; Heavener; Osage Co.; Pierce City MO
EF1: (4) Leach; Gentry AR; Dora; Hominy
unrated so far: (2) tornadoes near Stella and Johnston county
Click the information below for detailed info about each tornado, available on the NWS pages.
May 22 near Tulsa
May 22 near Joplin
May 24 near Tulsa
May 24 near Oklahoma City
Hopefully this info helps you. I think most of us are now ready for severe weather season to end...rough year for us and our friends. Stay safe, George
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