Oklahoma tornadoes: Meteorologist never forgets saving lives is part of job

David Andra is the meteorologist in charge with the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office. He said his colleagues never forget their focus is the safety of people, those they know and many they don't.
by Bryan Painter Modified: May 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm •  Published: May 21, 2013
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The daughter listened to the dad.

And although her house is “not inhabitable,” she and her family are not injured.

David Andra is the meteorologist in charge with the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office which is responsible for getting forecast, watch and warning information to 48 counties in Oklahoma and eight in western and northern Texas.

He said his colleagues never forget their focus is the safety of people, those they know and many they don't. Since about the middle of last week, they had been telling the public of possible severe weather for Saturday through Tuesday.

In addition to that, Andra had a talk with his daughter, Elizabeth Farrar.

“I told her it's one those days that you have to watch and she just made the decision she wanted to watch from a distance,” Andra said of Monday's the severe weather threat.

Farrar, her husband, their 1-year-old child and family pets exited the Oklahoma City metro and traveled west to near Weatherford.

“My daughter is living at my house right now along with her family,” Andra said. “They live near Briarwood Elementary, which is in the Moore Public Schools district, and their house is damaged to the point it's not inhabitable, but they are safe.”

Andra has more than 25 years' experience with the National Weather Service, including 19 at the Norman Forecast Office, which now has a staff of 29.

While tornadoes are possible in any month in Oklahoma, May leads the way. Official tornado records date to 1950 and since then, the state has averaged 21 tornadoes in May.

Monday's Newcastle/Oklahoma City/Moore tornado, with a preliminary rating of EF5, came on the third consecutive day of severe weather. Tuesday brought more severe thunderstorms.

This repeated threat supported what Andra said in early February, three months ago, when asked what is different about severe weather coverage in his area.

“The dryline, a boundary that helps storms to develop, is near or over western Oklahoma most of the spring,” he said of the usual scenario. “This gives us the potential to have several days of severe storms in a row, each with the potential for tornadoes. In many parts of the U.S. the threat lasts a day or less at any given time.”

The weather of recent days fits that as the dryline would move east, then back up to the west, then move east again.

“So it was oscillating back and forth between Oklahoma and west Texas,” Andra said.

The forecast from Norman calls for a slight chance of thunderstorms each day through Saturday. Storms Wednesday, if they form, were not expected to be severe. However, there will be a slight risk of severe storms over southwest Oklahoma late Thursday.

“It's not something that we look forward to in the spring,” Andra said. “But it's part of living in the Plains.”


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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