Tornadoes strike Oklahoma in coldest months

Tornadoes strike Oklahoma in coldest months

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahomans know late spring and early summer as tornado season, but the state has seen its share of twisters in the coldest of months.

Since 1950, Oklahoma has seen 103 tornadoes in the month of November. In December, 28 have been recorded. January has seen a total of 18, while 51 have been recorded in February, according to the National Weather Service.

"Tornadoes can happen any time of the year in Oklahoma," said Ryan Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, told The Oklahoman .

Of the 200 tornadoes from that four-month period, 66 were considered strong, and three were considered violent, according to the weather service.

"We're just in the location of the southern plains, that during the early or late winter months, you can have enough moisture and cold air aloft in the atmosphere and that creates fairly strong updrafts with thunderstorms," Barnes said.

One of those violent outbreaks containing the only recorded EF4 tornado in February struck Lone Grove on Feb. 10, 2009. The storm left eight people dead and injured 46. A total of 114 homes were destroyed.

The strongest tornado recorded in January struck Gans in Sequoyah County on Jan. 22, 1957. Ten people lost their lives, and 20 more were hurt, the weather service said.

An EF4 tornado blew through Jackson and Tillman counties on Nov. 7, 2011, but nobody was hurt or killed that time.

No EF4 tornadoes have struck the state in December and no EF5 tornadoes have been recorded the state's coldest months, according to the weather service.

"Usually December is a fairly dry month, and so you need that high moisture content and heat in the lower level of the atmosphere and, in December, that's hard to come by in Oklahoma," Barnes said.

"It's pretty rare to get violent EF4, EF5 tornadoes in the winter months, and very rare in February," he said.

None of the aforementioned tornadoes have ranked among the state's deadliest or costliest, according to the weather service.