Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, chatted with readers Wednesday about severe weather and preparation. Read the complete chat transcript here.
Although we think of May as the primary tornado month, hasn't there been a lot of tornadoes in April the last two years?
Yes, the last two Aprils have been very busy for tornadoes. In 2012, we had 53 tornadoes, the most tornadoes ever in April. And in 2011, we had 50. That's almost our annual total.
What is the severe weather outlook for this tornado season?
That's always a tough question, and honestly it's impossible to say. If we stay in the pattern we've been in over recent weeks, we'll have storm systems moving close by and any one of those could produce severe weather. Next week looks like it could get a little busy starting on Monday. But the bottom line is we don't know how many tornadoes we'll have, but I can guarantee we'll have them. Everyone just needs to prepare for one tornado.
Do the long-range models show an active spring?
Our models don't look out past 10-14 days, but it does look like next week could be active.
How much more rainfall is needed locally to ensure we are drought free?
We've seen some really good rains over the past two days, and this is exactly what we need more of in the coming weeks. April-June are the wettest months typically, so if we don't get good rain at this time of year, it doesn't look good for summer. But even with the good rain we've seen, we're far from being out of the drought. We need rainfall events like this to happen several more times between now and summer to help the soil moisture and more importantly to replenish the ponds, lakes and reservoirs. The drought is not over!
How can people receive information about a severe storm?
We had a dramatic example of what happens when a tornado hits a community late at night last April in Woodward, when an EF3 tornado hit around 12:20 a.m., killing six people. It is critical that all of us have at least THREE different ways to get a tornado warning, and one of those should be a NOAA Weather Radio! The battery back-up and loud warning alarm will help ensure you get a warning even while you're sleeping or if the power is out. You should NOT rely solely on a smartphone app, a television or a warning siren to wake you up!