Oklahoma weather is known for being pretty extreme at times. We have the best meteorologists in the world and storm spotters love it here but last night Oklahoma reached new extremes.
When I saw there was a tornado warning in western Oklahoma, where most of our severe storms start, I decided to turn on weather. Shortly after starting to watch a tornado started forming southwest of Chickasha. This is the same area that the May 3rd, 1999 tornadoes and the May 20th, 2013 tornadoes formed.
Soon they were saying it looked to be a mile wide and could possibly be an EF-3 to EF-4 tornado. It was headed for the Oklahoma City metro and was bringing back all too familiar feelings. The storm was predicted to hit the metro at 4:30 p.m. Schools that had started busing kids home turned back to the schools and kept the kids there. Schools and churches started to cancel events, and people were told to stay at work. A tornado emergency was issued for the metro.
I was texting a friend that lives in Norman, one of the first areas hit by the storms. I had texted her about an hour before the storms were going to hit to let her know she needed to stay at work. She let her husband know and they took shelter at their places of work. My friend works at OU and stayed in one of their safer buildings for the storms. It got pretty scary for awhile because her pets were home alone and the tornado was just north of their house. Thankfully it was very weak at that point and stayed to the north. It did get stronger just after that and did some damage in Norman.
Her husband had a hard time getting back home and round two was coming and he was stuck in traffic! Thankfully the storm slowed down and he got home just before the hail started.
Another scary moment came because my parents and some friends were in Oklahoma City for a concert. I told my parents to keep going north as the southwestern part of the metro was in the path. They decided to take shelter at a hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. It’s a hotel they go to often and it has covered parking and a basement.
At one point they were briefly evacuated to the basement but were never in any real danger. Our friends were closer to the path of the storm but were visiting a friend in a hospital and took shelter there. They were all going to eat in southwestern Oklahoma City and then go to the concert, my parents decided it wasn’t safe and booked a room at the hotel and stayed put.
This ended up being a very good idea! Our friends went to the concert but not too long after it started a tornado was spotted near the venue, it knocked out power and caused flooding. They canceled the rest of the concert but with the flooding we were concerned about them getting home. An officer helped them come up with a good way home but they did have to stop and take shelter at an IHOP before making home. Thankfully they made it in one piece!
Flooding ended up being a really big problem, with 7.10 inches of rain falling at Will Rogers World Airport in 24 hours. The first ever flash food emergency issued in Oklahoma City was issued last night. Even the Interstate was flooding and roads are still closed today.
There was also a 2.9 magnitude earthquake and the weirdest news of the night came when a tornado hit an exotic animal park. Lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) were reported to be loose! Thankfully they were all safe and had not escaped but it has made for some funny Jumanji jokes, memes and #tigerquakenadoflood.
And today a camel was found in someone’s backyard! Turns out it’s fence was washed away in the flood but it’s now back home.
The storms are continuing today and the rest of the week! Saturday we have a moderate risk weather alert. It’s very rare that we get these alerts so far in advance. Clean-up efforts are going to be tough with all of the flooding and new storms. But Oklahomans always come together after these storms and this will be no exception.
If you’d like to help with clean-up efforts in the state, please donate to the American Red Cross.