The folks in Oklahoma City are waking up to a city ransacked by a bevy of storms that swept through the Midwest yesterday, sparking twisters that ripped through parts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas on Wednesday night.
No deaths were reported, but at least 12 were injured as tornados tossed cars from the interstate, tore power lines from their moorings, and destroyed homes in the communities of Amber and Bridge Creek, according to Grady County Emergency Management Director, Dale Thompson.
The storms also prompted panic at a local zoo, where initial reports claimed tigers and bears had broken from their holdings amidst the chaos. Fortunately, all animals have been accounted for.
And tornados weren't the only problem.
Heavy rain stranded motorists in their vehicles, hampered emergency responses, and prompted flash flood warnings across six counties in central Oklahoma. A record-breaking 7.1 inches of rain was reported at the Oklahoma City airport, and the National Weather Service in Norman recorded between 5 to 8 inches across the area.
Kansas was also affected when the storms sparked 9 tornados, the worst of which fortunately touched down in the less inhabited north-central region of the state. Homes and barns were damaged and trees were uprooted, but no deaths have been reported in the area.
Although tornados tend to strike during the spring and summer months, there is no official "tornado season" as with hurricanes. All it takes to produce a twister is sufficient moisture, typically when cold dry air overlaps warmer, humid air near the Earth's surface, combined with atmospheric instability. Unfortunately, these conditions can occur year-round.
Ironically, it was the lack of severe weather this year that had climate scientists buzzing in early spring. According to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, not a single severe thunderstorm or tornado watch was issued anywhere in the U.S. for the first three weeks of March, pushing us into "uncharted territory."
"This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970," said Greg Carbin, Storm Prediction Center warning coordination meteorologist with NOAA, in a story published in April by The Weather Channel. "We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather."
For those in the Midwest, yesterday's storms could be just the beginning of a very long weekend. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has issued warnings for more severe weather across parts of the Great Plains, which could include tornados, very large hail and damaging winds. Residents of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas are on high alert.