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Long lead time aids tornado warnings

Weather forecasters in Norman say they made the most of the six days leading up to the storm.

From Staff Reports Modified: May 13, 2010 at 12:09 am •  Published: May 13, 2010

May 4.

Mike Foster, meteorologist in charge with the Norman Forecast Office, said the "long lead time” was crucial. On Monday, they issued 31 tornado warnings plus 19 severe thunderstorm warnings.

But as a specific example of lead-time, Foster mentioned Monday’s actions in which very early in the day, meteorologists in the forecast office were warning the public of a possible tornado outbreak in the Oklahoma City metro-area around rush hour. They pushed that message through the day, he said.

It proved to be very accurate, he said. Foster said they want to build in the minds of people that there is accuracy in these forecasts and that when they hear the information seven days out, they will begin to plan that far ahead.

Ongoing Coverage: May 10 tornadoes has disabled the comments for this article.

Damage from storms

Following are preliminary damage survey results from the May 10 tornado outbreak in the Norman Forecast Office coverage area, which includes 48 counties in the western two-thirds of Oklahoma.

Northern Kay Co unty, two tornado tracks: No specific information on widths or lengths of tracks are available yet. Both of these extended west into Grant County, but the survey team did not have time to assess that section of the tracks. The portion of the northern storm track in Kay County received an EF-3 rating. Five miles northwest of Braman, a three-story house was destroyed with this tornado. Also, an EF-1 tornado path was surveyed two miles south of the EF-3 path.

Moore to Harrah tornado: EF-3 rating; maximum width was 1/2 to 3/4 mile. Path length was about 23 miles, starting about 3.6 miles south-southwest of Moore. End point: about 1.9 miles south of Harrah.

Northern Pottawatomie County tornado: EF-3 rating; maximum width was 1/2 mile. Path length: about nine miles, starting at 4.7 miles north-northwest of Pink. End point: About five miles northwest of Shawnee.

Norman to Little Axe to Pink tornado: EF-3 rating; maximum width was 1/2 mile. Path length was at least 16 miles, starting about 3.2 miles south of Norman. End point: Not yet assessed.

Other Norman tornado: EF-1 rating, maximum width not yet assessed. Path length was about 1.5 miles, starting about 3.6 miles south of Norman. End point was about 3.6 miles southeast of Norman.

Tornado that merged east of Lake Thunderbird: EF-2 rating; maximum width was 1/4 mile. Path length was about seven miles, starting about 8.5 miles east, northeast of Noble. End point was about 2.7 miles southwest of Pink.

Tecumseh to Cromwell and points east tornado: EF-3 rating; maximum width was 3/4 to one mile. Path length was at least 30 miles only counting National Weather Service, Norman portion. It began about 2.8 miles west-southwest of Tecumseh and continued into National Weather Service, Tulsa area about 4/5 mile east of Cromwell.

Central Carter County tornado: EF-3 rating; maximum width, 400 yards. Path length was 4.9 miles, starting about six miles north-northwest of Lone Grove. End point was about seven miles north of Lone Grove.

Eastern Love County tornado: EF-1 rating; maximum width was 150 to 200 yards. Path length was about two miles, starting about 5.1 miles east-northeast of Marietta. End point was about 7.3 miles east-northeast Marietta.

Weather service forecast storms six days out

The National Weather Service first indicated that Monday might be an eventful day on May 4, six days before the deadly tornadoes struck. "There are some indications of a potentially significant increase in the risk of severe weather next Monday,” the weather service had on its website

at 4 a.m. that day. The warnings

continued until the violent weather materialized.

• Monday, noon: "There is a significant potential for strong tornadoes in the high risk area ... particularly from the Oklahoma City Metro Area north along and east of Interstate 35. The potential for storms in these areas during rush hour will heighten potential impacts.”

• 1:39 p.m. Warning decision update: "Expected timing of storms will place them into the OKC Metro and I-35 corridor around rush hour which will make the situation even more dangerous.”

• 2:45 p.m., Short-term forecast: "As storms move into Central Oklahoma closer to rush hour ... they will be entering an environment supportive of supercells with very large hail and strong tornadoes.”

• 3:29 p.m., Short-term forecast: Mentions satellite trends and high resolution model showing explosive storm development between 4 and 5 p.m.

• 4:32 p.m., Short-term forecast: Headline reads "Dangerous Severe Weather Outbreak Unfolding.”



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