It's no secret to Oklahomans that May marks the season opening for storms and tornadoes. However, even the most experienced residents are having to acknowledge the level of activity in the area over the past month has been unusually severe.

It's no secret to Oklahomans that May marks the season opening for storms and tornadoes. However, even the most experienced residents are having to acknowledge the level of activity in the area over the past month has been unusually severe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center reports there were more than 500 tornadoes in May — more than three times last year's figures for May, and more than half of all reported tornadoes in 2019 so far.

One of those hit close to home.

Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said the Dale Tornado on May 21 — rated an EF2 by the National Weather Service — was the only one to touch down in Pottawatomie County.

Though most area residents remain somewhat watchful and prepared during stormy weather this time of year, that day gave many residents an abrupt wake-up calls at 4:26 a.m. Tuesday, as notifications of imminent extreme alert were delivered via cell phone.

Tornadic activity was being reported in the area — though Shawnee wasn't the target.

It's bosom buddy Dale, however, wasn't so fortunate.

Just northwest of the city, Dale was scraped by a tornado meandering its way toward Meeker in the early morning hours.

Lynch said his department was tracking the twister.

“The National Weather Service was able to get an indication of debris in the air to confirm the Dale tornado,” he said. “That tornado moved northeast toward Meeker.”

Most damage Shawnee experienced was due to high winds. Lynch reported two multi-family dwellings with minor damage at Burns Apartments and Howard Residence Hall, on OBU campus.

The storm was moving about 50 miles per hour, Lynch said, but the winds were between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

“It was two wind shear vortices,” he said. “These are winds that change direction and increase with speed the higher you go in the atmosphere.”

Stronger shear is often the catalyst for tornado development, Lynch said.

“We are fortunate that the storm cell was moving fast preventing a tornado from forming over Shawnee,” he said.

Lynch said due to that incident in Pottawatomie County a single-family dwelling was reported to have minor damage; three mobile homes were destroyed; two mobile homes reported major damage; one had minor damage; and one barn was destroyed in the area between the North Canadian River and Old Hwy 270 south of Tanner Road (Dale). One single family dwelling was reported to have minor damage on Hampton Lane, a mile and a half northeast of the Tanner Road damage, Lynch said.

Local

"It has been a busy two weeks and, while the damage we have seen is tragic, we feel fortunate that we have not had the consequences that other parts of the state have had,” Lynch said. “Our emergency management staff and volunteers have been vigilant in tracking and responding to the severe weather — as have other public safety and public officials.”

Lynch said the National Weather Service office, in Norman, reported Northwest Pottawatomie County was impacted the most by high water over the past two weeks.

The North Canadian River, winding a path through the county and the Shawnee area, has been a source of much of the flooding as banks have not been able to contain the rains or the overflow from up river.

“Flooding along the North Canadian River impacted roads and agricultural land along the river,” he said. “Pottawatomie County District 1 road crews were kept busy dealing with road closings and debris removal.”

He said episodes of flash flooding briefly impacted roads across the northern half of the county.

“I believe that all of us in Oklahoma have been subjected to so much stimulus about the weather these last two weeks that we are weary,” he said. “A couple of days without threats around here will be a welcomed relief.”

State

As many residents prepare to return to their homes and property damaged by floodwaters, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages the public to use caution when re-entering their home.

Scott Sproat, director of the OSDH Emergency Preparedness and Response Service, said there are a number of factors for residents to consider.

“In the upcoming weeks, there will be many Oklahomans returning to damaged homes,” said Sproat. “We want to ensure the public’s health and safety as we continue to recover from the recent disaster.”

One thing to consider is if a flooded home has been closed up for several days, residents should assume there is mold and take proper precautions.

For more information about safety after a disaster, visit www.cdc.gov or www.ready.gov.

Nation

Under the leadership of U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) continues to monitor and assist states with responding to devastating and damaging floods and storms in America’s heartland.

Record-setting storms and flooding this Spring have resulted in the closure of dozens of roads and bridges on the National Highway System (NHS) in states throughout the Midwest, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and Nebraska.

“We are working closely with our state department of transportation partners to monitor the situation and stand ready to provide any aid the agency can to assist with getting impacted roads and bridges reopen for travel as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Federal Highway Administrator Nicole R. Nason.

The FHWA is coordinating with state department of transportation officials in the affected areas and stands ready to assist impacted states with any emergency relief needs they have, including funding, detour routes and any technical assistance for bridge and/or roadway repairs after water recedes.

Damages to roads and bridges caused by recent storms and flooding over the first half of 2019 are among the costliest in recent memory. Since January, FHWA officials directed $54.9 million in quick release funds to help states repair roads and bridges nationwide — roughly three times higher than the $19.8 million awarded during the same period last year.