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April 2012 set record for number of tornadoes

Meteorologists work to keep Oklahomans prepared, alert, safe during stormy weather
by Bryan Painter Modified: March 9, 2013 at 7:47 pm •  Published: March 11, 2013

There were more tornadoes in Oklahoma in April of last year than in any April on record dating to 1950: a total of 52.

The previous record was 50 tornadoes in April the previous year 2011.

Oklahoma's average number of tornadoes for April is 11, but the state has averaged 51 April twisters in the last two years.

Should that create heightened concern for what is to come? No. This is Oklahoma, and weather seldom remains the same. Also, two years is hardly a substantial pattern. Most importantly, instead of being fearful, the best approach is to be prepared, according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service, Norman.

While Oklahomans are preparing, meteorologists will be doing the same. The latter do so working with local emergency managers and others to provide storm spotters training.

In the office, meteorologists practice emergency procedures and severe weather procedures. Plus, they use a weather event simulator to sharpen their detection and warning skills with radars and other meteorological sensor systems such as the Oklahoma Mesonet and satellites.

Time has proved that there is a favorable environment through this part of the nation for big and damaging storms.

That's why the National Weather Service prepares for when severe weather occurs, not if.

Tornadoes have been recorded in every month in Oklahoma. However, the most active traditionally is May, followed by April, then June.

The Rocky Mountains funnel cold, dry air from Canada into this state. That air mixes with warm, moist air traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico. If the conditions mix with a southern-dipping jet stream providing upward vertical motion, tornadoes are possible.

Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, said Oklahomans' safety plans should include multiple ways to stay safe, depending on the circumstances.

“You can't have too many ways to get weather information, especially warnings,” Smith said. “You have to have backups in case for some reason you can't get the warning from your primary source.

“Everyone in Oklahoma should have a weather radio. It's a direct link to NWS warnings and can wake you up in the middle of the night and let you know bad weather is nearby. Television is a great source of local weather information. And today there are numerous ways to get warnings on your smartphone or mobile device.”

Forecasters constantly update outlooks and graphics on the National Weather Service website.

“Check the weather often, especially during the spring when thunderstorms are in the forecast,” Smith said. “Our goal today is to provide a constant stream of information in the days, hours and minutes leading up to severe weather.

“We produce numerous graphics for our Web page that paint the picture of what we're expecting. And now we're using social media like Facebook and Twitter to reach even more people.”

Also in this series

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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You can't have too many ways to get weather information, especially warnings.”

Rick Smith, Warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman

Weather Interactive

Click the image above to view the top ten most destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma history.
Click the image above to view the top ten most destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma history.


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