TULSA - I heard something today while watching one of the many stories on the deadly tornado outbreak that stopped me in my tracks.
The story said Alabama's tornadoes were more destructive than the Oklahoma outbreak in 1999.
Could that even be possible? Will this go down in recorded history as the most deadly tornadic event in U.S. history?
Just say the dates, April 19, 1995 or May 3, 1999, to an Oklahoman and you will get a story. Where they were, what they were doing, how it had an impact on their life. Just sit down and be prepared to listen for a while. If you can't recall what happened, then you are not from here. We know and we remember.
At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995 the downtown Oklahoma City bombing occurred.
It was, at the time, the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil. Some said the world changed that day. The building spray painted by a rescue worker with the phrase, "We Will Never Forget" is as clear today as it was 16 years ago.
Ask any storm chaser who was out May 3, 1999 and he/she will be able to describe in great detail how close they were, exactly what it looked and sounded like, how the storms tracked, and what wind speeds the Doppler on Wheels recorded that day.
Maybe it is wrong to compare storms. Every single life is important. If I lose my father, is that less tragic than a person who loses both parents? Of course not. Still I wondered how this recent event will be recorded in history.
On May 3, 1999 we had 74 tornadoes and lost 46 people. It could have been so much worse. The destruction was widespread, but there was nearly an hour of lead time on all the radio stations and with all of the television stations doing wall-to-wall coverage. It was hard not to know something was going on. Even the hard-core hunkered down when they saw the helicopter images of that mile and a half wide beast chewing up everything in its path.
To me it honestly looked like what I image hell would look like.
As ghastly as that was, during April 3, 1974's "Super Outbreak" 315 were killed in 13 states. That is over four times as many weather related fatalities as the '99 outbreak in Oklahoma!
If you go back as far as March 21-22, 1932 as many as 332 perished in a wide swath of deadly tornadoes that began in Texas and spanned the length of the entire south all the way to South Carolina.
The most deadly tornado outbreak took 747 lives on March 18, 1925 in the Tri-State Tornado outbreak in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
Keep in mind, this was before the modern media, well before we had radar and storm chasers. Most didn't even know it was coming. At one point the tornado had a forward speed of over 60 mph and it tore through everything in its path.
While the death toll from the most recent outbreak is nearing 300 now and still rising, it will not break the 1925 Tri-State record for weather related fatalities.
Likely the Tri-State outbreak's records will remain as the most deadly outbreak ever in U.S. recorded history. With radio and television, improved warnings, amazing storm chasers, and the ability to get weather updates on your computer and on personal hand-held devices, we have more ways to get warnings and information.
Here is hoping that record stands for a very long time.