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April 13, 2014

Okla. goes nearly 250 days without tornado

TULSA — Oklahoma hasn’t had a tornado or a tornado warning for more than eight months, though with bad storms expected in the state Sunday, it is doubtful Oklahoma will be able to match its longest streak ever without a twister.

Things have been unusually quiet through the first three months of 2014 — mainly due to a drought that began late last summer and intensified through the winter. Oklahoma typically has five tornadoes from January through March. This year, there have been none.

After a fury of powerful twisters raked the Oklahoma City suburbs of Moore and El Reno during a two-week period last May, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more, the last tornado touchdown in the state was reported Aug. 7, a brief funnel near the Panhandle town of Turpin.

The current streak of 248 days without a tornado or tornado warning ties the state’s second-longest period. The longest streak without a tornado in the state lasted 292 days and stretched from May 17, 2003, to March 3, 2004, according to the National Weather Service in Norman.

Why so quiet in the gut of Tornado Alley, at least since August? The necessary conditions — systems approaching from the west, lingering over a region while sucking up plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico; the dry line that forms, then the cold front and the potential nastiness — just haven’t been present at the right times, said Gary McManus, Oklahoma’s state climatologist.

“It ties to the drought,” McManus said. “We haven’t had a lot of chances to get those proper ingredients to get tornadoes.

“It’s a condition of timing and a condition of opportunity,” he said.

While forecasting offices report lower than normal tornado activity during the past few years in the U.S., some states, including Oklahoma, provide the cautionary tales for any notion that 2014 could turn out to be a dud.

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