Does Tulsa Get Tornadoes?
F5 Storm Shelters opened our Tulsa location in June of 2014. It comes up quite a bit, but many people in the city have a feeling that Tulsa is a safe haven from tornadoes because a lot of the terrain in the NE region of Oklahoma is a bit more hilly. On the flip side, Oklahoma City, is in a much more flat area of the state and this leaves it more prone to tornadic activity. Is this information accurate? Does rougher terrain make it more difficult for severe weather to form? Is Tulsa protected against tornadoes? We wanted to find out.
A little bit of research and we discovered that tornadoes have been observed on terrain as high as 12,000 ft above sea level! There is also documentation of a tornado traveling up a 3,000 ft ridge unaffected.In 1944, a violent tornado cut a continuous path at least 60 miles through heavily mountainous territory in West Virginia, killing at least 100 people. Here are just a few examples of tornadoes we found that formed in rougher terrain:
A hill known as Burnett’s Mound on the southwest end of Topeka, Kansas was purported to protect the city from tornadoes, according to an old legend. However, in 1966, an F5 tornado passed directly over the hill through downtown, killing 18 people and causing $100 million in damage.
During the Super Outbreak, violent tornadoes crossed dozens of rivers, including the Ohio, Detroit River as well as crossing over mountains and ridges hundreds of feet high.
Another example of tornadoes hitting mountainous regions of the United States is the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak, which hit mountainous parts of East Tennessee, Northeast Alabama, Southwest Virginia and North Georgia, killing many people, including an entire family of 4 in Ringgold, Georgia.
We are still figuring out how it is tornadoes form, but we do know that they can form anywhere. No terrain feature can prevent this from happening. Tulsa, like all of Oklahoma, is at extreme risk of having a tornado touch down at anytime of the year. Statistically, since 1950, Tulsa county and Oklahoma county have experienced almost the same amount of tornadoes. However, Tulsa has not gotten the giant F5 that has devastated OKC numerous times over the last decade. OKC has reported at least 2 F5 torandoes over the last 5 years. Joplin, Missouri has gotten one. Tulsa is located almost directly in the middle of both cities. It is not a matter of ‘If Tulsa can get hit by a tornado,’ it’s a matter of ‘when will Tulsa get hit by a tornado?’ Everybody in the state needs to be prepared for severe weather. We are here to help.
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