Texoma’s Weather of 2016 in Review: Record Warmth, Worst Tornado Outbreak in 34 Years, Drought
We’ve seen nothing but weather extremes the past few years, and 2016 offered more of the same. We saw two major tornado events, a fierce July microburst, increasing drought, and persistent record warmth. This is a long article but I trust that you will find it interesting.
After one of the warmest February's on record, we saw several significant hail events pound Texoma in March and April. The first of these hit on the morning of March 17; Fort Worth was pummeled by a $600-million hailstorm with as many as 50,000 cars damaged; Texoma scraped by with moderate hail damage from golfball hail in Whitesboro eastward into Southmayd. Tishomingo got hit March 23 and again on April 11 by golfball hail and damaging winds; one of the storms was so fierce it broke the windows out of the local Subway store. But the real spring trouble came with two significant tornado outbreaks just two weeks apart.
On April 26, four tornadoes skipped across Texoma in the first of these episodes. These included an EF-1 that caused extensive damage in Howe (Grayson County), injuring five people who were blown off of Highway 75 as the funnel crossed the road. The total path was a little over 2 miles in length and 150 yards wide. It was the most significant tornado in Grayson County in 8 years. Its winds, estimated at 95 to 105 mph, ripped air conditioning units from the roof of Howe High School, allowing water to get inside. About 20 homes took extensive damage in Howe as well.
An EF-0 in Whitesboro tore up a doctor’s office and about a dozen other buildings along a short ½-mile track.
Another EF-1 destroyed several buildings near Byng in Pontotoc County the same day. Straight-line winds from the storm complex tore the roof off a Davis church and some buildings in Ada and Roff took storm damage too. A small EF-0 south of Bells did minor damage.
Just two weeks later however, the May 9, 2016 southern Oklahoma tornado outbreak would make the April 26th event look like a spring shower. This monster event tied with April 2, 1982 for the greatest single-day total of intense (EF-3 or greater), damage-producing tornadoes in Texoma history.
The National Weather Service said 8 tornadoes struck Texoma on May 9, killing two, injuring several more and damaging or destroying hundreds of structures through more than a half dozen counties of southern Oklahoma. This included three EF-3s and one EF-4. North Texas was spared any tornado damage, although flash flooding took place around Paris the same evening.
It all began at 4:06 p.m. CDT when the first supercell produced an intense tornado near Katie in southern Garvin County. This would turn out to be the strongest tornado, an EF-4, with winds of 165 to 175 mph. This violent twister was at least a quarter mile wide at times, and killed a man when it utterly destroyed his home east of Katie. It tracked 9 miles across southern Garvin County before dissipating near I-35. This tornado lasted 21 minutes. Many videos taken of this tornado made it to the news as it was quite photogenic (See one of these in the slideshow below).
MURRAY CO. TORNADO: This same supercell generated a second, larger tornado although it was slightly weaker at EF-3 intensity. It began on the eastern side of I-35 just seven minutes after the first one dissipated: it reached a mile in width according to both NWS survey crews and spotters. One teenager home alone survived the tornado by taking shelter in the bathroom, and although badly damaged this room had its walls remain intact enough to keep him alive. The rest of the home was completely destroyed.
A second, smaller tornado spun up from this same circulation north of Sulphur, tracking eastward to near Roff; this was a rare anticyclonic tornado, meaning it spins clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. Although it was on the ground for 13 miles, its path was through a sparsely populated area so overall damage was light, and there were no injuries reported from it. This tornado was tough to spot as it was wrapped in rain for much of its life.
JOHNSTON COUNTY: A second EF-3 touched down in Johnston County one minute after the Murray County EF-3 dissipated. It was spawned by a different supercell farther south and caused the second and only other fatality in Texoma, southeast of Connerville. It was on the ground 18 minutes.
ATOKA/COAL TORNADO: Another southern Oklahoma tornado spawned from the same supercell as it cycled, and crunched along a 12-mile path over extreme southern Coal and northern Atoka Counties. Winds reached a maximum of 100-110 mph, an EF-1. This tornado moved at about 25 mph and was on the ground for 33 minutes. It badly damaged radio station KHKC and several dozen homes and buildings.
And so it continued: a mere five minutes after the Atoka/Coal storm dissipated, a new supercell over Bryan County spawned the sixth tornado of the day, east of Durant in the vicinity of Bennington.
BENNINGTON/BOSWELL TORNADO: The tornado formed at 6:24 p.m. southeast of Bennington and quickly grew to a massive funnel of well over a mile wide. National Weather Service survey teams said that it reached an incredible 1.8 miles in width, a record for Texoma, at its peak over western Choctaw County. Damage was extensive in the region south of Boswell, three mobile homes were destroyed and two persons were hurt, one critically. This tornado was the third EF-3 of the day for our area with winds reaching 135 to 145 mph. It tracked eastward for 18 minutes, creating a 12.7 mile long damage path.
HUGO TORNADO: The skies weren’t done yet: they unleashed a seventh tornado that took dead aim on Hugo 20 minutes after the Boswell tornado broke up. This tornado was a lot weaker than the Boswell monster with EF-1 winds of 95 to 105 mph, but still did a lot of roof, tree and power line damage in Hugo as it passed directly through a heavily developed area. It cut a six mile long, 1/3 of a mile wide path straight through town. While damage was widespread, no one was reported hurt. This was a fast mover, beginning three miles west of Hugo and ending three miles east of the city center in just 8 minutes, giving it an average forward speed of 45 mph.
8th TORNADO: The final tornado to strike Texoma on May 9th was also the weakest; an EF-0 that spent most of its life over Hugo Lake, and the NWS team could find no damage on either shore.
During the April 1982 outbreak catastrophic tornadoes hit Paris and near Antlers, killing a total of 39, injuring hundreds and producing hundreds of millions in damage. In both human and property losses 1982 was a far more destructive outbreak; but in terms of the number of damaging, violent tornadoes (EF-3 or larger), May 9, 2016 ties with April 2, 1982 by having four of them in just one day.
After May 9, things quieted down for a spell, that is, until a fierce thunderstorm popped up on July 9 and produced a large downburst over the Denison area. High winds, estimated at 70 mph, left almost 20,000 people without power for a time, with a number of customers enduring two days of July heat without any electricity. Many millions of dollars in damage was done to roofs, signs, power poles, trees and fences. No serious injuries were reported.
Drought gradually expanded through late summer, and by early fall we were firmly in the grip of severely dry conditions along and east of Highway 75. Moving into fall, the year saw both the warmest October and November on record for our area. Temperatures were more than 7 degrees above the norm both months – that’s huge. Drought reached the worst category, “exceptional” by December 1 in eastern Texoma. Rainfall continues on the low side moving into the winter with 90-day rainfall from October to the end of December about half of average area wide.
December 19th brought the coldest air in three years with an intense arctic surge; minimum temperature as low as 6 degrees set new records for the date in Antlers; the map in the slideshow (below) shows record lows in the blue shaded numbers. It was frigid!
A week later, we were right back in the saddle of very warm conditions, Sherman-Denison soared to 77 degrees on December 28, coming up just one degree short of the 1907 record.
Overall, it was an extraordinarily warm year; landscapers and lawn care providers tell me it’s a prime reason we had so many mosquitoes and other pests, as well as exceptionally difficult weed problems. Not to mention the pollen; thousands in Texoma of all ages suffered more allergy symptoms than usual due to the excessive warmth and its effects on the vegetation.
Here’s hoping the New Year does not follow suit, and that you have a wonderful 2017 no matter the weather!
News 12 / KXII-TV