Sapulpa tornado

Brandon Tyrrell (left), Justin Moore and Michelle DeGear make their way out of their Sapulpa neighborhood after an apparent tornado hit on May 26. The tornado was later confirmed to be an EF-1. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Oklahoma has set a record for the most tornadoes in a year, the National Weather Service said.

There have now been 146 confirmed tornadoes in 2019, breaking the record of 145 set in 1999, the weather service office in Norman said on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

Six tornadoes were confirmed in storms earlier this month, including the last one, an EF-0 near Boynton in Muskogee County, breaking the record.

This May by far saw the highest number of tornadoes this year with 105. That was followed by 22 in April, 11 in June, two in August and six in October.

“I guess knowing how busy May was, I wasn’t completely surprised,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the weather service in Norman.

He said two of the most significant tornadoes this year were a May 25 EF-3 storm that killed two people in El Reno and an April 30 EF-3 storm that killed two people in Bryan and Atoka counties.

However, Smith said that many of the tornadoes this year were of relatively low intensity, with many EF-0 and EF-1 storms on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

In 1999, there were 12 tornadoes with an EF-3 rating or higher; this year there were three EF-3s and zero EF-4s or EF-5s.

Smith said the record this year may be in part because of the advent of social media, camera phones and more advanced radar, which did not exist in 1999.

“There’s more awareness of these little tornadoes that get embedded in these storms,” he said.

“Had you had all of that in 1999 ... it’s likely ‘99 would still have a higher number of tornadoes,” he said.

Smith also said that meteorologists don’t view this year’s record in terms of any kind of trend.

“You can’t really get any meaning out of that scientifically,” he said. “Using past years to forecast what’s going to happen doesn’t work. There’s no pattern to it that we know.”

The record was set in a year when Tulsa County as of June 2 also broke the record for most tornadoes in one season with eight. One more was confirmed since then to bring the total to nine. The previous record was six in 1960.

The Tulsa National Weather Service office also issued 103 tornado warnings between April 30 and May, the most of any NWS office in the country.

Since 1950, when tornado records started being kept, the state averages 1.6 tornadoes in November and 0.4 tornadoes in December.

The record number for November is 12 set in 1958 and the record for December is four, set in 1971, 1975 and 1982.

Michael Dekker 918-581-8469


Twitter: @michaeldekkerTW

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