Tornadoes on the Southern Plains not as bad as feared; threat remains
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An intense storm system moved across the Southern Plains on Monday, spawning tornadoes that caused scattered damage and a deluge of rain but not the “particularly dangerous” twisters that forecasters had feared.
No injuries were reported.
Late Monday, the National Weather Service reduced the severe threat of violent storms to a small area of southern Oklahoma and northern Texas. But it kept an area stretching from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Wichita Falls, Texas, under tornado watch — the level of threat just below a tornado warning — until 5 a.m. CDT Tuesday morning
The biggest threat overnight appeared to be flash flooding from torrential rains that accompanied the storms, forecasters said.
The National Weather Service had warned that Monday evening could bring perilous weather to a large swath of western Texas, most of Oklahoma and southern Kansas. The storm was expected to move later Monday into western Arkansas.
As predicted, more than a dozen sightings of tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Missouri early Monday evening, although they were in sparsely populated areas. Oklahoma residents were particularly nervous Monday because it was the sixth anniversary of a massive tornado in Moore, south of Oklahoma City, that killed 24 people.
A tornado struck western and northern portions of the southwestern Oklahoma town of Mangum on Monday afternoon. Glynadee Edwards, the Greer County emergency management director, says some homes incurred roof damage and the high school’s agriculture barn was destroyed, but the livestock survived.
“The pigs are walking around wondering what happened to their house,” she said.
Emergency officials reported a tornado near Lucien, in northern Oklahoma, severely damaging a house and destroying a barn. One storm cell near Crescent, 32 miles north of Oklahoma City, spawned twin tornadoes.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Pike in Norman, Oklahoma, said a developing layer of relatively warm air aloft late Monday afternoon and evening over central Oklahoma was capping development of the kind of supercells that spawned tornadoes earlier in the afternoon in western and northern Oklahoma. Storm cells that did develop, however, followed one after the other in what is called “training,” leading to scattered reports of flash flooding Monday night.
The Storm Prediction Center website shows the main severe thunderstorm threat Tuesday will be over Missouri and northern Arkansas, with a slight threat in a surrounding area bounded by Dallas; Springfield, Illinois; Garden City, Kansas; and Oklahoma City.
The threat of nasty weather had prompted measures to prepare for the worst. School districts in Oklahoma City, nearby Norman and elsewhere in Oklahoma canceled classes with forecasts of hail and wind gusts of up to 80 mph (128 kph). A flood watch was in effect for the greater Oklahoma City region. Schools in Abilene and elsewhere in West Texas sent students home early.
Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City moved several planes to other military installations in anticipation of storm damage. Meanwhile, state workers in several Oklahoma counties were sent home early.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement that the state emergency operations center was activated and urged motorists not to drive around barricades or into flooded roadways.
In Oklahoma City, emergency management officials opened the Multi-Agency Coordination Center, an underground bunker on the city’s northeast side that serves as a clearinghouse for coordinating information about severe weather events and other major emergencies.
Some flights at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were canceled to avoid damage to aircraft and the possibility of extended delays elsewhere.
The Monday storms followed a spate of tornadoes in the Southern Plains on Friday and Saturday, leaving widespread damage and some people injured.