A year ago today was the start of the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma, which claimed 26 lives in the state. While we were warned that a significant outbreak was likely, no one could have predicted what would happen.
On Sunday, May 19th conditions were right for supercells and they quickly developed along the dry line near the Interstate 44 corridor. The storms produce many tornadoes, impacting Edmond, Luther, Arcadia, Carney, Norman, Lake Thunderbird, Shawnee, and Prague. The most intense storm was an EF-4 tornado which hit the town of Shawnee. Two people lost their lives in that storm.
We knew May 20th would be another very high risk day for tornado activity but again we had no idea the tragedy that would hit Oklahoma that day. We watched in horror as a violent EF-5 tornado was headed straight to Moore, Oklahoma. Following a similar path to the May 3rd, 1999 tornado that devastated the OKC metro. And this time the storm was hitting while children were in school and in the path of the tornado.
The tornado damaged or destroyed more than 13,000 homes and killed 24 people, including seven children that were taking shelter inside Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed by the tornado. Damage from the storm can still be seen in Moore as people are still cleaning up and rebuilding.
So far this year has been fairly quite as far as tornadoes go, with no significant outbreaks. However, some scientists fear climate change could make violent tornadoes, like those Oklahoma saw last year, more common. As we remember those that we lost last year, we must work to be more prepared for storms in the future.