April showers bring May tornadoes: Officials encourage making a plan for severe weather before it happens
The Carter County area has mostly remained clear from severe storms for the first part of April. However, as Oklahoma moves farther into the spring months, the threat for severe storms increases and officials say individuals should make sure they have a plan in place before it happens.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Barnes said Tuesday and Wednesday will likely bring some low chances for strong to marginally severe storms in the southern Oklahoma area.
“Right now it just looks like it would be a threat of large hail and damaging winds if there are any storms,” Barnes said. “The threat could change as we approach that time period so we’ll be watching it over the next couple of days for consistency within the model forecast.”
Though tornadoes can occur at any time of the year in Oklahoma, the peak season for tornadoes is typically between March and June. Last year, the state saw a record-breaking 149 tornadoes with 105 tornadoes in the month of May alone.
“As we go into the severe weather season, especially as we get into May, people just need to refresh themselves on any plans they have for their homes and businesses — what to do in case there is a tornado warning issued for your area,” Barnes said.
The need to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 has brought added complications to taking shelter from severe weather this year. However, officials agree that protection from severe weather should be the top priority.
Officials recommend sheltering from tornadoes inside your home when possible. According to the National Weather Service, well-constructed homes and buildings provide life-saving protection from 98% of Oklahoma’s tornadoes.
“The best place to be during a tornado is underground, but you can make use of and survive in your home by going to the innermost part of your home with as much wall between you and the outside as possible,” Barnes said.
Typically this includes interior closets or an interior bathroom with no windows on the lowest level of the building, Barnes said. Individuals should also make sure to cover up their heads while taking shelter during a tornado warning.
“Even if there isn’t a tornado warning, if there are severe thunderstorm warnings issued for your area, you need to be prepared to get away from windows — especially in the case of very large hail and get indoors if you hear thunder,” Barnes said.
Individuals should wait 30 minutes until they no longer hear thunder to go back outdoors because lighting can be very dangerous. Having two different modes of receiving severe weather information is also important, whether it be through a weather radio or a television, Barnes said.
“Because if there is a tornado in your area, sometimes the cell phone coverage — the network will become clogged and you need to have another mechanism for receiving and or sending information,” Barnes said.
Families who normally take refuge in public storm shelters should check with their community shelter managers to ensure the shelter will still be open and if there are any special considerations to plan for due to COVID-19.
There are four public storm shelters located throughout the Carter County area, all located on school campuses in Ardmore, Dickson and Wilson— with the exception of the Healdton shelter at the Healdton Armory.
“Make sure you have that plan in place, that’s the best advice that I can give,” Barnes said. “Before it happens, organize that plan and figure out where you’re going to go, what you’re going to take with you, and so forth.”