Storm Week: Killer Tornadoes - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Storm Week: Killer Tornadoes

It's been nearly 35 years since the last deadly tornado blew through Wichita Falls.  It's only a matter of time before one strikes again.

We live the part of the country known as Tornado Alley.  It stretches from Texas all the way into South Dakota.  Warm and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets up with cold air from the north, and hot dry air from the west.  This creates a hostile environment for severe weather and tornadoes.  

Tornado season starts in March and lasts into early June.  The peek of the tornado season is May.  Even though we haven't seen a lot of tornadoes in Texoma lately, central Oklahoma has.  In May 2013, two killer tornadoes occurred only 11 days apart.  

The first struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma and was categorized as an EF5 with winds of more than 200 mph.  On May 31st, 2013 an extraordinarily large tornado developed near the town of El Reno, Oklahoma.  This tornado grew to be 2.6 miles wide, which was an historic number.  It's the largest number on record. 

Experts from the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma are busy researching during tornado season.  They said high amounts of moisture combined with a lot of dry air coming in from the west, along with strong winds throughout the atmosphere, have played a key role in producing the tornado outbreaks in central Oklahoma. 

Jeffery Snyder, one of the leading researchers at the NSSL, said the dry line position is critical in determining where supercell storms will form.  He also said these types of storms produce tornadoes.  It's also the main reason why we are in a drought in Texoma. 

Snyder said it's just a matter of time before everything comes together to produce big tornadoes in north Texas and southern Oklahoma.

"It's been a very long time around Wichita Falls.  Stats say it's a matter of time for the DFW or any populated area in the central U.S.," Snyder explained.

Storm Chaser Erik Fox, who chases tornadoes for the Skywarn 6 Weather team, witnessed the historic El Reno tornado.  He said it was the largest tornado he had ever witnessed and he explained the winds were massive.  Fox said he was glad he distanced himself from the populated area.  Fox explained that if something like the El Reno tornado were to hit Wichita Falls, it would be catastrophic. 

The 1979 tornado that hit Wichita Falls was a mile wide when it ripped across the city.  A 2.6 mile wide tornado would produce twice the area of damage and would likely result in mass casualties. 

We hope that something like this never happens, but it's very possible.  This is why it's important to be ready and on alert just in case it does.

Ken Johnson, Newschannel 6
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