The Norman Transcript

Headlines

May 6, 2013

Tornado veterans juggle practicality and preparedness

NORMAN — Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.

In spring 2011, as a series of tornadoes devastated Alabama, Rita White tracked an EF-5 monster moving over Limestone County, where she works as emergency management director. The tornado was miles from her office in Athens, but her husband was texting her about pieces of tin falling on the roof of their house in the northwest Alabama city.

Also falling from the sky over Athens were blue jeans scattered from a Wrangler factory the tornado had obliterated 77 miles away.

“They do baffling things,” says Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman.

How do you prepare for a freak of nature? Even people who live in tornado-tested places have mixed feelings about how much is necessary. Tightened building standards and storm shelters are obvious tools to brace for vicious wind and debris, but tornado veterans balance those steps with pragmatism. Rigid building codes and shelters cost money, and the odds of being hit by one of the storms are actually relatively low.

Patterns and Planning: While tornadoes are unpredictable — they can happen any time of year, any time of day, and strike all 50 states — they aren’t totally random, either. We’re in the thick of “tornado weather,” March through July, and the storms are far more common in parts of the South, West and Midwest than they are elsewhere.

Tornadoes don’t tend to hit cities, either, if only because of probabilities. There is far more undeveloped land than buildings in the places where tornadoes usually form.

“Most of the time they’re out scaring cows,” says Keith Stammer, director of emergency management for Joplin and Jasper County, Missouri, which withstood a massive EF-5 tornado — the top of the scale, with winds reaching 200 to 250 mph — on May 22, 2011. The storm destroyed a third of Joplin, killed 161 people and caused up to $2.8 billion in damage, making it the costliest tornado on record, according to the National Weather Service.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Headlines
  • Coaches Luncheon Mixon question off-limits at coaches luncheon

    Toby Rowland addressed the elephant in the room even before Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel arrived Wednesday at Journey Church....

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mixon will not participate in practice

    Preseason practice begins for Oklahoma today. Freshman running back Joe Mixon will not be there. The school announced the decision Wednesday night....

    July 31, 2014

  • Nova Pettigrew Music community bands together to raise money for 2-year-old’s battle with rare form of cancer

    Two-year old Nova Pettigrew was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer six weeks ago. Her father, former Deli sound technician and musician James Pettigrew, noticed something was wrong when running turned to walking, then limping, then ...

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deputies cleared, return to work

    Two deputies involved in a deadly shooting earlier this month are expected to return to work today after being cleared by the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office. “They (the Sheriff’s Office) gave me their investigation, I ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Sales tax-free weekend set to begin this weekend

    When stores open Friday morning, shoppers may be waiting. Oklahoma’s annual sales tax holiday is slated to run this weekend with the special exemption beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and ending at midnight on Sunday....

    July 31, 2014

  • India landslide kills 21

    NEW DELHI — Rescuers worked in rain today to dig through a remote village in western India where at least 21 people died as a landslide swept away scores of houses, possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said....

    July 31, 2014

  • Israeli strike hits UN school

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Busted water main dumps 20 million gallons of water into UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and adjacent garage

    LOS ANGELES — The rupture of a nearly century-old water main that ripped a 15-foot hole through Sunset Boulevard and turned a swath of the University of California, Los Angeles into a mucky mess points to the risks and expense many cities ...

    July 31, 2014

  • GOP-led House gives go-ahead for suit

    WASHINGTON — A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Just a day before ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Felonies filed

    The following people were charged with felony counts in the Cleveland County Court Clerk’s Office: · Randall Lee Sherrill, 34, possession of juvenile pornography · Dewey Leon Kinsey, 37, possession of controlled dangerous ...

    July 31, 2014