2019 Tornado Outbreak


National Weather Service

A rare sight: twin tornadoes are spotted over Oklahoma during the Outbreak of 2019.

Caroline Austin, Staff 2018-2019

It’s been a violent spring tornado season virtually everywhere across the United States. For weeks now, weather systems capable of producing severe conditions have been making their way across the plains and to the East Coast. However, none of the storm systems have been so violent as the one making its way through the Central and Southeastern U.S. What is now being referred to as the Tornado Outbreak 0f 2019 continues to terrorize residents through “Tornado Alley”, an area of states where tornadoes are particularly numerous and violent. (includes Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas.)

Meteorologists predicted rounds of severe weather from May 20th to May 22nd, the highlight of which being the potential for violent, long-track tornadoes. Residents were warned and encouraged to stay at home, seek shelter, and take warnings very seriously. Several schools and universities closed for the day and cancelled extracurricular activities, disrupting tens of thousands of students. The National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch (PDS) for the Northern Texas and Oklahoma panhandles on May 20th, 2019. This is the first time a PDS has been issued since the infamous Super Outbreak of 2011.

So far, there have been more than 87 confirmed tornadoes across at least seven states, though no definite totals have been reported yet. The National Weather Service continues to survey damage and assign ratings to confirmed tornadoes. Tornadoes are ranked using the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Meteorologists look at amount of damage, paths of destruction, and type of damage to determine the wind speed of the tornado. The tornado is then ranked on a scale from EF0 to EF5 according to wind speed, with EF5 being the most destructive. The NWS has confirmed 24 EF0s, 36 EF1s, 15 EF2s, and 10 EF3s. Damage has included leveled homes, businesses, schools, and damage to an airport in Texas. There have been at least four confirmed fatalities.

As this system moves offshore, more severe storms are beginning to organize and fire up across the plains region once more. This area of the U.S. has definitely earned its name.