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Storm Trackers Examining Deadly Paths

By Griff Palmer and Amy David Published: May 4, 1999
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Monday's tornado outbreak began so quickly and was so long-lasting that National Weather Service meteorologists, still tracking developing violent weather, were unable to give an exact count of the twisters that had hit the state.

As tornadoes continued to form, meteorologist Bruce Thoren said weather service officials would not be able to get a clear count of the tornadoes until after they had viewed the storms' damage paths.

The weather service had known by midafternoon that conditions were ripe for violent weather, Thoren said.

"It seems like almost everything that formed got going really well today," he said. "Almost everything that went up ended up being a supercell."

Supercells are large, powerful thunderstorms with a rotating updraft, a key ingredient for tornado formation.

The most violent of the storms began taking on tornadic aspects in Lawton, tracking near Lake Ellsworth, Fletcher and Laverty before moving into the Chickasha area.

"That's when we knew there were serious problems," Thoren said.

That storm moved into the Oklahoma City metro area, flattening homes, scattering and smashing cars in south Oklahoma City, Moore and Midwest City.

Jim Purpura, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the first tornado warning was issued about 4:45 p.m. for Comanche, Caddo and Grady counties. There were more than three storm paths along which tornado damage was intermittent.

The first path started around Fort Sill and moved from Lawton up through the Oklahoma City area into Lincoln County, producing three to five tornadoes.

Another path still being tracked about 10:15 p.m. was near Geary in Blaine County to north and east of Dover in Kingfisher County.

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