Two days before Monday, Oklahomans were warned it was going to be a bad day, a “high risk” weather day. That afternoon, I was recording this week’s Gardenangelists podcast on clematis, aggressive vs. invasive plants and vegetable gardening with Carol Michel of May Dreams Garden and had turned my phone to do not disturb.
Suddenly, my Apple Watch tapped me with a message. It was my son overriding my do not disturb with a text about a tornado warning in Logan County. I left off Skyping with Carol and turned on the weather coverage. Fortunately, the storms were forming along a dry line north of me outside of Mulhall and later Perry.
That meant those tornadoes wouldn’t hit here. How did I know?
I live in the central part of Oklahoma north of Oklahoma City in southern Logan County. Thunderstorms usually move from west to east, and tornadoes move northeast. They might make a small jog, but then they will continue northeast. I was watching for any tornado that formed in southwest Oklahoma and headed our way. Of course, I have friends all over the state, and if it became a really dangerous weather night like May 3, 1999, or May 19, 2013, I would be warning my adult children and friends in addition to watching out for my own home.
I wrote about the latter storm in After tornadoes come blue skies in 2013.
Just so you don’t worry, I have a walkout basement that is set against a hill on the south end of my house. In the interior closet up against that hill, I am as safe as I can be.
During an active spring weather season in Oklahoma, watching the weather coverage is a bit like watching a sporting event. I’m not making light of our weather, but I can’t help but get a kick out of storm chasers who are running on full adrenaline, or my friends, online, sharing Oklahoma weather memes. We have three main channels that cover the storms, News9, KOCO-TV and KFOR. Most of us switch back and forth between the stations, and there’s even a drinking game or two based upon severe weather language, how unhinged David Payne gets, and whichever meteorologist(s) The Lost Ogle is making fun of this week.
All joking aside, our weather people do a marvelous job letting us know exactly where tornadoes are occurring and giving us time to run underground like mole people, or into an interior bathroom where we cover ourselves with mattresses and hide in the tub.
If it’s an F5 tornado, you really need to be underground. Gary England, our veteran and now retired chief meteorologist at KWTV News9, would tell you so. If I didn’t have a basement, I would have a tornado shelter.
With all of the social media sharing, there are a lot more storm chasers out there as you can see from the above video. It looks rather dangerous especially when all of them are jockeying for the best tornado video or live stream. If you’d like to read more about Oklahoma City’s weather culture, Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding… its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis, by Sam Anderson is really good. When I was a little kid, I kid you not, they still forecast the weather with chalkboards.
At the further risk of creeping you out, I think this video, below, is a great example of the sounds during storm season. Tornado sirens are really creepy especially if you’re caught out in a storm. The city also tests the sirens every Saturday at Noon.
Yes, there were tornadoes that night–one went down the west side of Mangum, Oklahoma, and another two or three were northeast of me. However, about the middle of the evening as we watched wall-to-wall weather coverage, I noticed the meteorologists were fired up about rainfall instead. I’d already seen on the Oklahoma Mesonet that 5-10 inches were predicted for my area. That’s a lot of rain in a very short time on top of the already soaked ground.
I’ve lived here all my life, and while tornadoes are scary–watch this Smithsonian piece on the May 3, 1999, tornado–if you want to really scare yourself–I believe flooding kills more people. Partly, because some of us are determined to drive around blockaded areas and into running water. “Turn around, don’t drown” isn’t just a slogan. Several places in Guthrie, the town north of me, are blocked off because Cottonwood Creek is out of its banks. The Cimarron River is also very high and expected to crest today.
As I understand it, the cold front was so strong it stayed on top of north-central Oklahoma for hours. It rained. It thundered. It rained some more. When I finally went to sleep around Midnight, the rain became almost gentle in my area, but I wondered what I would wake up to.
We have a small lake/pond at the bottom of our property. It is held by the dam and roadway that runs through our neighborhood. Many years ago, we had a similar flood, and the tinhorn–a colloquialism in Oklahoma I’m told–for everyone else, a culvert, wasn’t large enough to keep the water from going over the dam. The road washed out, and it took months to raise the money to put it back. When we did, my husband, Bill, bought a much larger 48-inch tinhorn and placed it next to the other one. I walked outside yesterday and surveyed the property, and the water was rushing through both tinhorns. There is a snag in the larger one, but everything was holding, and for that, I’m so grateful.
During the horrible summer of 2011, our lake/pond shrunk from the extreme heat, and I feared it would never rise all the way to the top again. Well, Mother Nature finally surprised me this year.
We are all fine in our part of Oklahoma. Please pray for those who lost their homes to tornadoes and flooding. Also, please ask Mother Nature to turn off the spigot for a little while. The bees and I thank you for your support. This week’s forecast is below. I hope they’re wrong about tonight.