Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Killer Tornadoes Defy Winter, Slash Through Midwest in Bizarre Weather

In Oklahoma, the freak storms made history as the National Weather Service issued almost two dozen tornado warnings. The state has not recorded a tornado in January since 1975. Although none touched down, the warnings and the severe thunderstorms were so dangerous that local TV stations provided non-stop weather coverage during prime time, pre-empting normal shows.

Northeast Oklahoma stayed under tornado watch until 5 a.m. today. Although radar picked up supercell formation and rotation in the sky, the storms didn't unleash their deadly funnels until just after they crossed state lines into Arkansas and Missouri.

The photo is courtesy of stormchaser Chris Wilburn and KTUL. This incredible night photo of a tornado was captured in Missouri.

This dramatic night storm photo is courtesy of White Shadow Photography.

It was a tense time for those in the storm strike zone. Here at I Found a Peanut headquarters, we spent the night camped in front of a TV, flashlight and emergency gear at hand and ready to head into the storm shelter.

We knew something was coming even before the tornado watch and warnings were issued. The weather whipped from below freezing temperatures to a sudden tropical feeling. The high here reached 71 degrees. However, missing from the mix was the usual "oppressive" feeling that comes in pre-tornadic buildups.

Rapidly-building weather systems like this are incredibly dangerous because they appear so suddenly. Other dangers: flooding and lightning. As thousands of lightning strikes hammered to earth, the storms also brought flooding. Emergency workers had to rescue people from flash-flooded areas.

It's not yet dawn, so we haven't had a chance to check for any possible damage from the high winds. Amazingly, the power stayed on. Parts of Oklahoma are still recovering from more than a week without power and heavy damage from the recent multi-million-dollar ice storm.

Tulsa has brought in outside contractors to help with downed limb clean-up from the ice storm. Officials fear that fallen trees and limbs, especially in country areas, will serve as dangerous fodder when the fire season begins.

Despite all that, Oklahoma was lucky last night. Our neighbors on our northeast borders weren't so lucky, nor were those in some sections of Wisconsin and Illinois. Although we're reeling from the one-two punch of historic ice storm and now spring-like supercell thunderstorms, we know that last night we managed to dodge a deadly bullet--this time.

Applause is due KOTV, KJRH, and KTUL, who all fielded stormchasters and spotters, and who worked throughout the entire night monitoring and reporting on the storms.

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