Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Congressman Cole and Congresswoman Fallin returning from DC to survey the damage in the 4th District

The above picture was of a Country Boy grocery store which sat on Highway 9 east of Norman that served the eastern part of the County. Damage similar to that is throughout a 40 square mile area.

Today Congressman Cole will be back in the district shortly to receive briefings from the Sheriff and the Mayor on yesterdays tornadoes that roared through Cleveland County and other parts of his 4th District. There are generator issues caused by the tornado at Lake Thunderbird which is a source of water for the local communities including Norman. This area is on water rationing because there is also trouble at Lake Stanley Draper where Oklahoma City gets some of their water.

Congresswoman Fallin will be in Seminole to view their damage. A helicopter belonging to the OU Medical Center which was on a run was damaged at the Seminole and can no longer fly.

For several days the National Weather Service (NWS) here in Norman was warning residents of Oklahoma that yesterday was going to have the conditions ripe for a tornado outbreak across Oklahoma. They nailed that one. Was out for lunch when the initial warnings hit but nothing much was showing up on radar. Within a short time storms started showing up on radar and a tornado was on the ground in the Yukon area. The outbreak of severe weather including tornadoes exploded from there ahead of a dry line that was moving through the state.

Yesterday was a day for storm chasers. Not only does the NWS use storm chasers but out local TV stations all have storm chasers to video the storms and alert the stations to where the storms are going next and how fast they are growing. If you have power, you watch the local stations track these storms block by block so you know where the storms are going and if the rotation in the wall clouds are on the ground as the tornadoes drop to the group.

The 'Norman' tornado started with a white wisp on the TV screen that was sent back to the station by a storm chaser just a short distance from the National Weather Service and Storms Prediction Center at the corner of Jenkins and Highway 9 in Norman. You could say they were ground zero for the start of what is now dubbed the 'Norman' tornado which continued to grow knocking cars off of Hwy 9 on its way to growing larger and larger reaching at least a mile wide by the time it reached counties to the east of Cleveland County. Storm Chasers in the Channel 9 helicopter sent back pictures as this tornado gained strength and grew over Lake Thunderbird. This tornado then slammed Little Axe and Tecumseh and kept going east causing damage for miles.

There was also a tornado just a few miles north of Norman happening at the same time as the Norman tornado which took out three of the huge high voltage power lines snapping them in two like toothpicks. That one hit Lake Stanley Draper and caused problems for the Oklahoma City water supply. The rotation in the clouds was very visible but the tornadoes in some instances became rain wrapped especially the Norman one that picked up moisture out of Lake Thunderbird where it took out the Marina and tossed boats. The Marina is now floating in the lake.

Another tornado on I-40 closed the interstate due to cars and trucks being tossed around and in the Choctaw area took out Love's Country store where many of us have stopped over the years while traveling I-40 back to OKC/Norman.

Damage is everywhere in the area south and north of the main parts of Norman. We believe because of all the advance warning we had, more lives were not lost or injuries because when the word goes out in Oklahoma the conditions are ripe for tornado outbreaks, people listen. One of the trailer parks that was hard hit has a safe room for residents which meant even though their homes were destroyed they remained safe in the shelter.

There have been seven deaths so far and crews are doing a second search of a 49-square-mile area hard hit by tornadoes Monday night.

We are thankful for having two members of Congress that immediately made plans to return to the area to see how they could help. The 4th District is so fortunate to have Tom Cole as our Congressman because he is always there for the District and this is just one more example.

Congresswoman Fallin is the same way for the 5th District which includes a large portion of Oklahoma City and counties to the east that were hit especially hard.

Our prayers and thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and friends and to the people who are injured and lost everything when their homes were destroyed. Oklahomans will rebuild and once again we will see that spirit of neighbor helping neighbor that this State has the reputation.

One bright spot is the fact that the NWS was right in the center of the Norman tornado forming and the data they will have collected will be priceless to use in tornado prediction.

Read more about yesterday's tornadoes at The Oklahoman

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