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October Sets Tornado Record

Published: Monday, November 1, 2021

Oklahomans are growing accustomed to Mother Nature’s October weather shenanigans following a snowstorm of up to 13 inches in 2019 and a crippling ice storm in 2020. A spring severe weather motif was chosen for October 2021 with at least 31 tornadoes touching down during the month, besting the previous October record total of 27 set back in 1998. That preliminary total also surpasses the 25 twisters tallied during the first nine months of the year. While most of the tornadoes were considered weak—rated EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale—they were damaging, nonetheless. Oct. 10 was the most active day with 17 confirmed tornadoes along the Interstate 44 corridor. The most intense twister, rated an EF2, touched down near Anadarko and created “substantial” damage throughout the town according to Anadarko city officials. Two EF1 twisters struck Coweta and Webbers Falls later that night and damaged numerous homes and businesses, as well as Coweta High School. Severe winds and large hail were also quite fierce that evening. Norman was hit with hail up to the size of baseballs that caused significant damage to a large swath of the city. It was Norman’s second disastrous hailstorm in 6 months. Another severe weather outbreak struck the evening of the 12th overnight into the 13th, producing another 13 tornadoes which were also accompanied by large hail and severe winds. These tornadoes traversed southwest through central Oklahoma, damaging houses and businesses along the way. The month’s final tornado struck northeast Norman just after midnight on Oct. 27, damaging trees, fences and homes. The preliminary total for the year now stands at 56. The annual average for Oklahoma is 57.2 tornadoes based off of 1950-2020 data. Non-thunderstorm related winds buffeted the state on Oct. 28. Fifty-seven of the Mesonet’s 120 sites recorded wind gusts of at least 50 mph. The site at May Ranch in northern Woods County reported a gust of 74 mph that afternoon.

The statewide average rainfall total of 3.76 inches was 0.4 inches above normal and ranked as the 37th wettest October since records began in 1895. Totals of 4-8 inches were common across central and eastern Oklahoma, as well as parts of the southwestern corner to the state. Several areas across western Oklahoma failed to eclipse the 2-inch mark, however. The Mesonet site at Cookson led the state with 8.82 inches while the site at Kenton had the low end of the sites at 0.36 inches. Fifty-eight Mesonet sites recorded at least 4 inches for the month, and another 18 reported at least 3 inches. The statewide average for the first 10 months of the year was 31.51 inches, 0.42 inches below normal and ranked as the 47th wettest January-October on record.

Summer seemed reluctant to give way to fall during October. Triple-digit temperatures occurred as late as October 9, and Hollis reached 92 degrees on the 26th. The statewide average temperature finished at 64 degrees, 2.7 degrees above normal and ranked as the 22nd warmest October on record. The highest temperature of the month, 102 degrees, was recorded at Freedom on Oct. 9, one of five sites to reach at least 100 degrees on that date. The first freeze of the fall season occurred at Eva on Oct. 14 with a low of 32 degrees. The lowest temperature of the month was 26 degrees at Eva on the 16th. The first 10 months of the year ranked as the 61st coolest on record at 63 degrees, 0.6 degrees below normal.

The flash drought that had surged across the state during September was greatly diminished during October, dropping from 73% to just under 41% throughout the month according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, an additional 54% of the state remained under abnormally dry conditions according to the report. The Climate Prediction Center’s November outlooks indicate increased odds for above normal temperatures across the entire state, and below normal precipitation across southwestern Oklahoma and the western Panhandle. CPC’s November drought outlook sees drought persisting through the month where it is already established, but also developing across all the remaining western two-thirds of the state.