Updated to show new severe weather risks!
Tornado near Apache, OK May 6, 2015
Tornado near Halstead, KS May 6, 2015
TORNADO ALLEY LIGHTS UP!
So far 47 reports of tornadoes from Nebraska south to Texas. I don't know how many twisters touched down in central OK but my guess is that there were many mainly small tornadoes in and around southwestern and central OK including the OKC Metro area as well as a few up in north central OK. For the most part not huge monster tubes but numerous small spin ups with widespread damage. Where I live, far NW OKC, no severe weather but I was subjected to three hours of continuous terrifying tornado sirens. I feel psychologically disturbed after being put through that. Is there government help for this? Food stamps? Anything? There may have been one bigger tornado in Grady county near Bridge Creek. It sure looked big on radar and that helicopter shot was amazing. But I still question TV meteorologists that try to guess tornado size from video or pics or radar displays. I mean it looked significant but those helicopters have EF-5 cameras with EF-5 zooming capabilities. Lets wait and see what the NWS scientists come up with.
Really, I buried the lead. Look at these rainfall totals....astounding! Not only severe weather & tornadoes but serious flash flooding in the south OKC Metro. As heavy as it was this is not unprecedented. We've had rain like this before. But the NWS issued a Flash Food Emergency. That's a new one. My take on this is that the NWS is looking for ways to get the public to react to their warnings with more urgency. This comes from the fact that over the years weather predictions have gotten hyped up so much that the public is getting numb to it all. This is a way to try and motivate the public to take warnings more seriously. Hey, whatever works, right. Bottom line it worked! As far as I know no flooding deaths or storm chasers sucked into oblivion this go around. Big improvement!
On to the forecast...Here's the severe weather risk from the Severe Storms Prediction Center for Thursday. Day 1.
Here's the risk for Friday. Day 2.
Here's the severe weather risk for Saturday, Day 3. Then Sunday Day the risk shoves east.
Obviously these maps will change up some depending on exactly how things play out over the next few days. Lets take a quick look at some of the new data this morning.
I'm not going to get into the fine details tonight, why bother with that right now, but I do want to drive home a few points that might help you out. First off pattern recognition is very important when making a forecast. IMO the most important aspect there is in terms of predicting future weather. Although, no two storm system are exactly the same we see these same general patterns over and over again. After looking at the weather maps everyday for 30+ years you begin to recognize weather patterns and this helps tremendously in trying to make relatively accurate mid range weather predictions. This translates to don't fire the old TV weather dudes they're the ones that save the day when it matters (too late). However, secondly, I want to point out that it's the fine details that give me the biggest problems. Look, I can forecast a severe weather pattern 10 days out with good confidence but many times I can't give you the fine details until 10 minutes after the fact. In other words, I predicted todays severe weather threat 10 days ago but I couldn't tell you there would be 3 inches of rain, then 20 small tornadoes, then 6 more inches of rain only in south OKC with a gorgeous rainbow on the north side now did I. You get my point?
So looking at the maps I posted above you see a general severe weather pattern for the central and southern plains. My forecast from like a week ago hasn't changed. I actually think tomorrow (Thursday) has the lowest chance compared to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To me it looks like the best chance for severe thunderstorms shifts more west Thursday across the Panhandles / western OK. Then severe weather chances ramp up again Friday, Saturday and end from west to east on Sunday as the main upper storm system shoves east. But like I stated I don't know exactly how the fine details of each day will play out, nobody does.
All modes of severe weather seem possible including large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, heavy rainfall, lightning and throw in an earthquake or two. Each day at least a slight risk for severe weather but Friday, Saturday and even Sunday could be days where the risk is elevated or upgraded to more dangerous levels. Should be a few interesting days ahead.
Recapping, Wednesday was quiet a day weather wise. I certainly feel for the folks in Oklahoma and surrounding states impacted by severe weather. I've spent my entire career covering severe weather and over the years have become less enthusiastic toward impending weather situations. I used to get all fired up when big severe weather days were looming or powerful winter weather was about to hit. Now, I look forward to the Summer ridge. Funny, I've had this same conversation with other meteorologists / weathercasters about my age in TV and in the NWS. I won't mention any names but we all kinda feel the same way. It's not fun anymore. We feel like this... we used to hunt storms and now we have become the hunted. Although, I will tell at the same time I did miss it Wednesday night. This last severe weather event was the first since I was let go from TV. It was the first time in the last 27 years I was not part of storm coverage with a TV station. I felt like I was missing something. Can't explain it, just felt weird not being there. Ahh, let it go.....