Okla. on pace for record-setting tornado season?
NORMAN, Okla. — This past weekend’s tornadoes in Oklahoma are part of a big start to severe weather season.
Preliminary data is suggesting we’re outpacing last year’s number of twisters and 2011 turned out to be a big year for tornadoes.
But experts are hesitant to say 2012 will be a record-setting year.
Conditions were ripe for tornadoes in the first three months of this year and statistical data doesn’t lie.
But experts say the numbers that are in don’t tell the whole story.
Don Sontheimer is cleaning up some of the mess created by Friday’s tornado that tore through Norman.
His home suffered only fence damage.
“Nothing like the pain of people that have a whole home destroyed,” he said.
But it’s somewhat of a concern that tornado season’s biggest months, May and June, have yet to arrive.
“Hopefully it’s not a precursor to more bad storms for the summer,” Sontheimer said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 379 preliminary tornado reports in the first quarter of this year.
That’s a 146-percent increase over 2011′s first quarter.
However, Dr. Harold Brooks, a Research Meteorologist at NOAA in Norman, said “preliminary” reports are a little deceiving.
“We get lots of reports of the same tornado,” he said. “For instance, there were over 130 reports of tornadoes on Saturday in Oklahoma and Kansas and Nebraska but the final number appears to be about 60.”
Brooks points out the 2011 tornado season got off to a slow start but kicked in with southeastern U.S. twisters killing dozens in April, while the month of May brought deadly tornadoes across Oklahoma.
A mild winter may have contributed to the first quarter this year but Brooks said it’s not a predictor.
“There’s no guarantee at all and what’s happened earlier in the year really tells us nothing about what’s going to happen the rest of the year,” he said.
The U.S. saw 1,628 tornadoes last year, the second-highest number ever.
Oklahoma’s 119 twisters in 2011 were the second highest ever, as well.
Brooks said they can’t look more than a week ahead to predict them and this next week looks quiet.