Oklahoma - Tornado Alley
Oklahoma has a history of violent weather and Oklahoma produces more Tornadoes per year than other state in America. For this, Oklahoma is known as Tornado Alley. According to the National Weather Service, in 2019, Oklahoma broke the record for Tornadoes in a year with 146, 10 of those in our Mayes and Wagoner Counties area alone.
Defined by the National Weather Service, - a Tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes can destroy well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year. Although tornadoes are most common in the Central Plains and the southeastern United States, they have been reported in all 50 states.
Tornadoes typically occur during the spring and early summer months in Oklahoma, however Tornadoes can happen any time of the year.
Since 1999 Wagoner County has had 34 reported Tornadoes and Mayes County has had 44 reported Tornadoes. Towns that have seen significant damage due to high winds include; Coweta, Broken Arrow, Wagoner, Okay, Porter, and the Fort Gibson Lake Area in Wagoner County and Pryor, Chouteau, Mazie, Locust Grove, Salina, Adair, Langley, Rose, Spavinaw, and the South Grand Lake Area in Mayes County.
The most resent Tornadic activity in our area was in 2020, when the Salina / Locust Grove area was hit by an EF1 Tornado with damage around the Hudson Lake area. Damage included uprooted trees, some roof damage and hail.
The most significant Tornado activity for our Mayes and Wagoner County area was in 1942 when and EF4 Tornado struck Pryor. This tornado touched down 5 miles south of Claremore at about 3:15 pm CST and moved east-northeast through rural parts of Rogers and Mayes Counties before taking aim on Pryor.
At 3:45 pm CST, the tornado entered Pryor and traveled directly through the main portion of the town, including the principal business section. Its violent winds demolished dozens of frame buildings and several brick buildings, including the First Baptist Church. After leaving Pryor, the tornado caused damage to the northeast of the town, completely wrecking everything in its path before it lifted about 3 miles northeast of Pryor. The damage swath was a quarter of a mile in width, and about a third of Pryor was destroyed by the tornado including much of the downtown.
Torrential rains accompanied the tornado and water knee deep surged down the main street. Communication and power lines were wiped out completely for 16 miles around Pryor and floodwaters interfered greatly with relief and rescue work and resulted in the closing of some of the highways leading into the city.
A total of 49 people were killed in Pryor, with another 3 persons killed to the west-southwest of the town. A total of 350 people were injured with 192 of those being hospitalized. Damages totaled $2.3 million and 500 buildings were damaged or destroyed. In 2021 money, the damage total would be over $32 million.
Here are some tips and things to know about preparing for Tornado season.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
- Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
- Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
- Check the forecast. Listen to local news station on the TV, Radio, or a NOAA Weather Radio station to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips. If storms are in your area, watch for darkening skies, lightning, increasing winds.
- If you have a smart phone, check your weather app on your phone or download a weather app to stay informed.
- Look for community pages on social media such as your local Emergency Management.
- Get a battery operated or hand crank radio to stay informed if the power goes out. (Look for one with a phone charger on it).
- Get an emergency kit, that includes first aid materials. You can find these at most retail stores in your area.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage, such as trampolines, outdoor grills and lawn furniture.
- Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. If you live in a mobile home or home without a basement, identify a nearby safe building you can get too quickly, such as a church or family member.
- Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Check more ideas for your family plan at: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
- Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.
- Prepare Your Home: Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
DURING A TORNADO
- Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
- At Your House: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don't forget pets if time allows.
- At Your Workplace or School: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
- Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or tent. If you have time, get to a safe building.
- In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
- Stay safe, do not go storm chasing, leave that to the professionals.
AFTER A TORNADO
- Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are possible during severe weather outbreaks.
- Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you're okay so they can help spread the word. Text messages or social media are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.
- Assess the Damage: After the threat for tornadoes has ended, check to see if your property has been damaged. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.
- Help Your Neighbor: If you come across people that are injured and you are professionally trained, provide first aid to victims if needed until emergency response teams arrive.
- Stay safe, do not go storm chasing, leave that to the professionals.
SERVPRO® of Mayes and Wagoner Counties specializes in Fire and Water Cleanup and Restoration.
If you have any questions, call your SERVPRO® of Mayes and Wagoner Counites, 918-486-1055. 24/7 Emergency Response.
Emergency numbers for our Mayes and Wagoner Counites Area to keep handy.
Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG) – 800-664-5464 GRDA (Electric) – 918-256-5545 PSO (Electric) - 1-888-218-3919
Wagoner County Emergency Management – 918-279-0059
Wagoner County Sheriff Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-485-3124
Coweta Fire Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-486-2121 Coweta Police Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-486-2121
Coweta Water Department – 918-486-2189
Wagoner Fire Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-485-8082 Wagoner Police Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-485-9564
Wagoner Water Department - 918-485-4586, Ext. 237
Porter Fire Department - 911 or Non-Emergency 918-483-2521 Porter City Hall / Utilities – 918-483-8331
Mayes County Emergency Management – 918-825-4650
Mayes County Sheriff Department - 911 or Non-Emergency 918-825-3535
Chouteau Fire Department – 911 or Non-Emergency 918-476-8928 Chouteau Police Department - 911 or Non-Emergency 918-476-5225
Chouteau City Hall / Utilities – 918-476-5902
Pryor Fire Department - 911 or Non-Emergency 918-825-4650 Pryor Police Department - 911 or Non-Emergency 918-825-1212
Pryor City Hall / Utilities – 918-825-0888