2019 sets record year for tornadoes

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Trees knocked down power lines on E. Timberdell Rd. between TReaves Park and the OU Intermural Fields, Sunday, June 9, 2019.

Oklahoma had the most tornados in history in 2019, according to the National Weather Service.

recorded a total of 147 tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma, beating the previous high of 145 tornadoes in 1999. May 2019 also had the highest number of tornados in any month in Oklahoma history with 105, which surpassed the previous high of 91 set in 2010. However, the other 11 months combined for just 42 tornadoes, a slightly lower total compared to previous years.

“It was a very active year for severe weather throughout the year,” Gary McManus, Oklahoma state climatologist said. “It was a slow start for the first three months, but May had a record number of tornadoes. That's what boosted the large number of tornadoes for the year."

Fortunately for Oklahomans, none of the tornadoes registered higher than an F3 on the tornado intensity scale. Tornados are rated on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale from a F0, with winds less than 73 miles per hour and light damage, to F5, winds 261 to 318 miles per hour with incredible damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sixty of the 2019 tornadoes registered as F1 tornadoes, while just three were rated F3 tornadoes.

F3 tornados typically do severe damage, such as ripping roofs off, uprooting trees and lifting heavy cars off the ground, according to NOAA.

“A big difference for last year from other years was 2019 didn't have a lot of large tornadoes,” McManus said. “Most of the tornadoes were weak. While they can still be damaging, they don't typically have a lasting impact that the bigger tornadoes can have.”

Despite the record number of tornadoes, Cleveland County saw just four tornadoes touch down inside county limits. All four tornadoes occurred in May, with three of them touching down on May 21.

Moore also saw a lack of tornadoes this year, as all four Cleveland County tornadoes touched down in or near Norman. It's been a nice break for the city, which is still recovering from the devastating tornadoes in 1999, 2013 and 2015, which resulted in multiple deaths and billions of dollars in damages to the city.

“Given our history, we always take tornado season seriously,” Brooks Mitchell, Our preference would be no tornadoes, but we try our best to stay prepared. We just hope no other community has to go through what we've been throughout our history.”

The city has taken several proactive measures to prevent massive damage for future tornado seasons, which typically consists of April, May and June. The city is currently working on a new tornado and storm shelter which will be located on the first floor of city hall.

“I've been in Moore for four years and since I've been here there's been some little spin-up tornadoes that didn't do much damage,” Mitchell said. “But just because we didn't have many tornadoes last year doesn't mean it won't happen this year.”

Despite the record number of tornadoes in 2019, there's not many ways to predict whether Oklahoma residents can expect a similar tornado season this year, McManus said. He pointed to the 42 tornadoes in 2018, which is a below average total for an average year.

However, a tornado touched down in Cherokee County just 10 days in January, which marks the first January tornado since 2013.

“What like to tell residents is to prepare for a severe weather season every year so nothing sneaks up on you,” McManus said. “One thing we've learned is Oklahoma is anything can happen.”

Jesse Crittenden


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