NORMAN — Fourteen years ago, May 3 began as a sunny day in Oklahoma. Most folks on the way to work that morning were unaware that Monday would go down as one of the most devastating in our state’s history. The Storm Prediction Center began the morning issuing a “slight risk” warning for the southern plains, but increased the warning to “moderate” and then “high” later that day. By late afternoon, 12 supercell thunderstorms produced more than 70 tornados in the region that claimed the lives of many Oklahomans.
One supercell developing near Lawton would ultimately spawn a deadly F-5 tornado. Touching down near Chickasha, this F-5 produced over 300 mph winds as it tracked along I-44 destroying the community of Bridge Creek. Residents remember this tornado well, as it cleared a significant path through Moore crossing I-35 and eventually lifting near Midwest City. Thousands of structures were destroyed with an estimated cost of 1 to 1.5 billion. Four years later, May 8 produced a violent F3 which at one point followed an eerily similar path.
Moore, Greensburg, Tuscaloosa and other hard-hit communities offer bleak reminders of the ferocity of these severe weather events and other natural disasters. Coupled with several tornados over the years, Cleveland County also experienced another disaster last fall as a wildfire damaged thousands of acres and destroyed numerous homes. While many residents have excellent plans in place to prepare for and respond to disaster, others who do not should consider having an emergency plan in place.
While many believe they are immune to devastation with the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, living in Oklahoma is certainly not the state to have that belief. Fire, ice, floods and other disasters are common in our state and obviously we are well-known for large and violent tornado outbreaks. In Oklahoma it’s not a matter of if you will be affected in some way, but when. Because of this, the Cleveland County OSU Extension office will be hosting 3 meetings on how you and your family can prepare for disaster. They will take place in Classroom C located at 601 E. Robinson in Norman beginning March 19th, 2013.
Brenda Hill, Family and Consumer Science Educator will kick off the series with a presentation on how you can prepare your family for a disaster on March 19th. Part two of this series will be held March 26th. This segment will be conducted by Susan Moffat, Director and Community Development Educator and will highlight the ways you can prepare for and protect your business from disaster. I will present the third session on disaster preparedness for landowners, farmers, and ranchers April 2nd and all three seminars will begin at 6:00 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending please RSVP to 405-321-4774.
With storm season only a few months away, now is the time to prepare for severe weather threats. Watch the news, listen to the radio, have an emergency kit and plan, and take warnings seriously. If your area is in a “high risk”, talk with your family. Ask that they pay attention to alerts and maintain contact via calls or texts with friends and family. There are survivors in Bridge Creek, Joplin and many other communities who would advise you do so. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension and Oklahoma State University offer their programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran and are Equal Opportunity Employers.