Some might not link weather to the wildfires. McManus does. He believes the widespread wildfires in August were a result of the relief-versus-drought cycle the state experienced during 2012.
“The unusually warm winter and early spring combined with the abundant rainfall at the time to produce explosive vegetation growth,” he said. “Few can remember the state being so green during March.
“When the rains went away and the drought returned in late spring, however, all that vegetation went dormant or died, becoming fuel for those wildfires.”
Wildfires were numerous, and occurred in dozens of counties, many with multiple fires.
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office reported one fatality related to the wildfires, occurring in Cleveland County.
From July 28 through Aug. 29, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management counted 678 homes damaged in wildfires in Creek, Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties alone. Of those, 603 were destroyed.
Of the 62 tornadoes so far this year, 52 were recorded in April, with the majority of those occurring from April 9 to April 15, according to the National Weather Service. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports that 86 storm-related injuries occurred from April 13 to April 15. That included Woodward where six people died during the April 15 EF3 tornado, and another 36 were injured, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Fortunately, the activity slowed in the summer.
Since June, the only confirmed tornado was in Carter County on Oct. 13 near Healdton, according to the National Weather Service.
About 20 people suffered minor injuries during the April 13 Norman tornado. That Norman twister, an EF1, is one Smith said he likely will remember for a long time.
“Having a tornado take what many consider to be the worst-case scenario track through the city at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon was a big deal, for sure,” he said. “But being in the office, seeing the live video of the tornado moving into Norman, and not being able to reach family members who are scattered all over town gave me a whole new perspective on what it feels like to be on the other side of the radar screen. I'm thankful the tornado was not more intense.
“I wouldn't say the challenges in 2012 were very different from other years, just variations on and different combinations of, ones we see each year.”
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