Monday, August 7, 2017

Weird Tulsa Tornado, And Tropical Storm Franklin Threatens Mexico

A TGI Fridays in Tulsa, Oklahoma was torn apart
by a rare August tornado Sunday morning. Photo
by Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World
Over the weekend, a tornado struck Tulsa, Oklahoma, causing somewhere between 13 and 26 injuries - depending on who you talk to - and causing extensive damage to a business district. Even a 20 story building suffered serious damage.

When we think of Oklahoma, we think of tornadoes, so at first glance, news of a twister in the Sooner State doesn't seem that out of the ordinary.

This tornado was an oddball, though. Tornadoes are common in and around Oklahoma in the spring, say March through May, as atmospheric conditions favor such storms that time of year.

Those proper conditions are usually missing by August. Oh sure, a tornado can happen pretty much anywhere and any time of day in August, including in Oklahoma, but this was rare. It was the first Tulsa area tornado to strike in August since 1958. 

The time of day it struck was weird, too. Again, tornadoes can happen at any  hour of the day, but they are far more likely to strike in the afternoon and early evening, when the sun's heat adds instability to the atmosphere. That instability can make tornadoes more likely.

The Tulsa tornado, however, swept through at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The early morning tornado mostly hit a business district, and most of the stores and restaurants in that area were closed and empty at the time of the tornado.

(Although some people inside a TGI Fridays were hurt when the tornado partly collapsed the building.)

Had the tornado focused on a dense residential district, it might have actually been worse, because people are sleeping at 1:30 in the morning and aren't awake to hear tornado warnings. And Oklahomans generally let their guard down a little after the spring tornado season ends.

And had that tornado struck during the day, when the business district was very busy, it would have been a much worse situation.

The tornado spun up extremely suddenly, catching forecasters a bit off guard. No tornado sirens in Tulsa sounded because by the twister appeared, it was already heading out of town and into the neighboring community of Broken Bow, which did receive warnings.


The latest tropical storm to form came to life last night in the northwestern Caribbean Sea.

Its name is Franklin. Top sustained winds this morning were 45 mph, which isn't too big a deal, but forecasters think Franklin could strengthen. The government of Mexico has issued a hurricane watch for the Yucatan peninsula, as the storm is expected to hit there.

It'll weaken briefly while over the Yucatan, but could strengthen again once it gets over the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche on Mexico's easrt coast.

Franklin does not appear to be much of a threat to the United States at the moment.

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