Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (2024)

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (1)

At a Glance

  • Tornadoes in the Plains killed at least one person and left severe damage.
  • The death occurred in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, where dozens of buildings were destroyed.
  • Serious damage was also observed in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

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Multiple towns are heavily damaged in the Plains after a powerful round of severe storms struck the region, killing at least one person.

H​ere's what we know as of Tuesday afternoon:

-​The town of Barnsdall, Oklahoma, was struck by a large tornado overnight and the damage to structures is severe. The National Weather Service (NWS) says its survey team found low-end EF4 damage.

At least one person died, according to the Osage County Sheriff, and numerous others were injured. A nursing home was also hit by the twister and residents were relocated. The town of 1,000 located about 40 miles north of Tulsa was also struck by an EF1 tornado on April 1.

(​MORE: Days Of Dangerous Storms Ahead For Millions)

-​Northeast of Barnsdall, major structural damage was also reported in the town of Bartlesville. No deaths have been confirmed and all injuries there are believed to be minor.

-​The NWS confirmed an EF1 tornado hit the town of Smithville, Tennessee, around 65 miles east of Nashville, on Monday, with wind gusts up to 100 mph.

-​As the storms marched east early Tuesday, a radar-confirmed tornado with a debris signature struck near the town of Sullivan, Missouri, damaging this bar. The high school was also damaged in the town located about an hour southwest of St. Louis, according to The National Weather Service (NWS) surveyed the damage and rated the tornado EF1.

H​ere were our updates from throughout the day Monday:

(9:00 p.m. ET) Where Is The Biggest Threat Overnight?

Tonight, a corridor stretching from western and central Oklahoma to central and eastern Kansas faces the most imminent threat. This swath encompasses metropolitan areas like Oklahoma City and Wichita. Strong to intense tornadoes with a rating of EF3 or greater are a real possibility, and this danger could persist into the early hours of Tuesday. As the night progresses, severe thunderstorms are expected to advance eastward into the Missouri Valley, amplifying the risk in that path. Residents of these areas should take immediate precautions and stay vigilant.

(8:40 p.m. ET) Tornado Threat Expands

The NWS has issued a tornado watch for parts of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota overnight, until 3 a.m. local time. Officials warn the most likely threats could be damaging wind gusts and the potential for scattered spin-up tornadoes.

(8:15 p.m. ET) Confirmed Tornado In Oklahoma

A tornado has been confirmed just southeast of Okeene, Oklahoma, moving east at about 35 mph. Social media photos show part of the tornado hidden by a large wall of rain.

Forecasters say the tornado risk will increase soon in central Oklahoma and southern Kansas as a strong wind jet moves over the area.

(7:35 p.m. ET) Storms On The Move

At least five powerful supercell thunderstorms originating in northern Oklahoma are currently advancing eastward, entering into an environment more conducive to tornadic activity. With this movement across the Plains, there is a higher likelihood we will start to see more strong tornadoes form.

While the majority of severe weather is following the anticipated northeast trajectory, new storm cells are also emerging in western Oklahoma, adding to the need for continued monitoring and precautionary measures.

(6:50 p.m. ET) Stay Alert

In an early-evening message to followers on X, The NWS office in Norman, Oklahoma, posted a reminder that the worst may be yet to come.

Despite a slow start to today’s outbreak, it’s important to note that the potential for dangerous tornadoes will only increase as the night progresses, especially after dark.

(6:00 p.m. ET) Tornado Spotted In Tennessee

Video posted to social media purports to show a tornado on the ground in Smithville, Tennessee. Radar has also confirmed the presence of a funnel.

The NWS warned of impending damage to mobile homes, roofs, windows and vehicles. Tree damage was also likely. A tornado warning remains in place in the area.

(5:45 p.m. ET) Tornado Risk Increases After Dark

Today's severe weather threat is expected to persist into the late evening and overnight, possibly lasting until around 4 a.m. in some areas. That means it’s likely some pretty serious storms could roll through the southern and central Plains after people have gone to sleep.

This is especially scary because tornadoes at night are proven to be a lot deadlier than those during the day. Research shows that while nighttime tornadoes make up only about a quarter of all tornadoes, they cause nearly 40% of tornado-related deaths.

Why is that? Well, when it’s dark, many people don’t see a tornado coming until it’s too late. There also tend to be fewer storm spotters out watching the weather and warning nearby communities. Plus, at night people are usually asleep and might not realize the danger until it's right on top of them.

Go to bed prepared with this list of tips for staying safe amid nighttime severe weather.

(5:05 p.m. ET) May Has A Reputation

May tornado outbreaks, particularly in the Plains, have been historically devastating and deadly. May is the peak month for tornado activity in the U.S., characterized by warm air, jet-stream disturbances, and abundant moisture. Notably, the Plains region, often referred to as "tornado alley," experiences the highest risk during this time.

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (2)

Over the past 50 years, several memorable May outbreaks have occurred, including the 2011 Joplin tornado, the record 1999 Oklahoma outbreak, and a series of tornadoes in 1973 that included a track stretching the entire width of Alabama. Each of those outbreaks is infamous for significant casualties, injuries, and billions of dollars in damage.

Read more about recent May outbreaks here.

(4:35 p.m. ET) Storms Begin To Ramp Up

This is how it starts. Thunderstorms have begun to develop across Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Some of these same storms have the potential to unleash destructive, long-track tornadoes as the day goes on. But first, the area could see large hail and strong, gusty winds.

A landspout tornado was reportedly spotted near central Nebraska, becoming the first official tornado report of this event.

At least one other short-lived tornado has been identified, though far from any populated areas and with no damage reported.

(4:00 p.m. ET) What Is The Dryline?


If you’re keeping a close eye on updates from The NWS today (and you should be), you may have noticed them mention storms developing along the “dryline” in Oklahoma. Let’s explain:

The dryline is an imaginary line through the Great Plains where two very different kinds of air meet up: wet air that comes from the Gulf of Mexico, and dry air that comes from the desert.

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (3)

When there's a strong storm, this line can move farther east, sometimes reaching all the way to the Mississippi Valley. When this happens, things change pretty quickly. The humidity drops, wind shifts direction and temperatures start going up. These changes can trigger severe thunderstorms, and even tornadoes. So, this dryline is likely to see a lot of action today.

(3:20 p.m. ET) A Particularly Dangerous Situation

A rare Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch has been issued across parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

This means officials have high confidence there could be strong (EF-3) to violent (EF-5) tornadoes in these areas.

Take a close look at the threat info listed in this NWS update, which includes an expectation of hail the size of softballs. The NWS doesn’t use this wording lightly. A ‘particularly dangerous situation’ alert is only used in unique situations when long-lived, powerful tornadoes are in the picture.

(3:00 p.m. ET) Keep Calm and Watch Weather Alerts

Forecasts like this can seem really daunting - especially when such a wide area is at risk. It can be hard to know what to expect or where to begin when making a plan. This helpful infographic from the NWS office in Norman, Oklahoma, answers a lot of those questions:

The big takeaway: Stay calm and stay up to date. You can get the latest alerts and information about the incoming storms on The Weather Channel App.

(2:30 p.m. ET) What Makes Today’s Forecast So Concerning?

From digital meteorologist Madeline Scheinost:

“The environment we are seeing is ripe for supercell development. There is a lot of moisture in the area, creating an unstable atmosphere. There is also wind shear, which will help support supercell development. These supercells are expected to produce very large hail and possibly strong tornadoes.”

(MORE: What To Know About Supercells)

If that didn’t convince you, Senior Meteorologist Dina Knightly offers some extra advice: “This is a serious situation and everyone needs to have a plan on where they want to go if a tornado warning is issued. Do not delay. Charge your phones and make a plan now.”

(2:00 p.m. ET) Back In The Bullseye

Almost the entire state of Oklahoma is under some sort of severe risk category, which includes several areas still reeling from last week’s deadly tornado outbreak. Towns like Sulphur, Holdenville and Marietta, Oklahoma, that were hit hard just a few days ago are mid-cleanup efforts as they brace for yet another round of extremely dangerous weather.

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (4)

The same can be said for cities like Westmoreland, Kansas, where one person died and nearly two dozen homes were destroyed by a tornado on Tuesday. The people of Westmoreland find themselves back in the predicted severe area today.

For others, this potential outbreak is seemingly a long time coming. This is the first time all of Oklahoma has been under an NWS “high risk” for severe weather in five years. The last time Kansas received a “high risk” severe designation was May of 2017.

(1:30 p.m. ET) University of Oklahoma Postpones Final Exams

Today is the first day of standard finals week for many University of Oklahoma students. The university announced that any exams after 3:30 p.m. would need to be rescheduled in light of the severe weather forecast. The campus in Norman will close at that time.

School officials issued a press release saying, “Students with final exams scheduled to take place after 3:30 p.m. will be contacted by their instructor to reschedule. OU Online students will continue their regularly scheduled instruction…..We will continue to monitor the weather and OU Emergency RAVE Alerts will be sent as appropriate.”

(1:00 p.m. ET) First Tornado Watch Issued

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch from central Nebraska into north-central Kansas until 7 p.m. CDT. Additional watches will likely be issued through this afternoon and evening.

(12:15 p.m. ET) School Districts Cancel After-School Events, Meetings

After-school and evening events for both Oklahoma City Public Schools and Wichita, Kansas, Public Schools have been canceled. In Oklahoma City, a planned board meeting was also canceled but in Wichita, the Board of Education meeting will continue as scheduled.

(12:00 p.m. ET) Will Evening Commuters Be Safe?

From senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman: We could see severe thunderstorms kick off as soon as early afternoon in parts of central Nebraska and western Kansas.

However, the peak time of concern for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Oklahoma and from central into eastern Kansas will be from late afternoon through late tonight.

That could be as soon as the PM rush in cities such as Lincoln, Nebraska; Wichita, Kansas; and the Oklahoma City metro areas. However, the highest chance of severe weather in those locations appears to be this evening.

Before you start your drive home today, check for any active severe weather warnings in your area. If there are severe thunderstorms in your area, you may want to consider staying put if you have considerable shelter available at work.

(11:00 a.m. ET) Air Force Relocating Planes Due To Severe Weather Risk

Officials from McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas, announced they are relocating any planes that aren’t undergoing maintenance due to the threat of severe weather facing the region. Planes were moved just three weeks earlier for the same reason.

(10:30 a.m. ET) NWS Official Shares ‘Key Messages’ About Oklahoma Storm Warnings

A meteorologist with the NWS in Norman, Oklahoma, shared some key messages about today’s storm threat.

Rick Smith warned that "most people will not see a storm, but if you do, it will probably be very bad."

The tornado potential will increase after dark and Smith warned drivers not to get in their vehicles this afternoon without checking the weather first.

For more on the dangers of nighttime tornadoes, click here.

(9:00 a.m. ET) Storm Prediction Center Issues Rare ‘High Risk’

The Storm Prediction Center issued a rare “high risk” forecast for parts of the Plains, including Oklahoma City. State emergency management officials urged residents to prepare now by discussing an emergency plan and being ready to act.

T​his type of serious outlook is only issued an average of about two to three times each year.

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (5)

Plains Tornadoes: 1 Killed, Damage Widespread | (2024)


What are most tornado deaths caused by _________________? ›

Remember it is flying debris from tornadoes that causes the most injuries and fatalities.

Has there ever been a F6 tornado? ›

In total, two tornadoes received the rating of F6, but both were later downgraded to F5. Based on aerial photographs of the damage it caused, Fujita assigned the strongest tornado of the 1974 Super Outbreak, which affected Xenia, Ohio, a preliminary rating of F6 intensity ± 1 scale.

Has there ever been an EF5 tornado? ›

Catastrophic damage is photographed in the days following the May 20, 2013, EF-5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma. EF-5 tornadoes are among the rarest cyclones on the planet. In the U.S., there have been only 59 EF-5 twisters since 1950, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

What tornado caused the most damage? ›

The Tri-State Tornado is the deadliest and longest-lasting tornado on record in the United States. In its record three-and-a-half-hour spree across Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois, the tornado killed nearly 700 people, destroyed 15,000 homes, and obliterated town after town.

How many people died in the worst tornado? ›

This ranking shows the ten deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, ranked by the death toll of their victims. The deadliest tornado of all time in the United States was the Tri-State Tornado on March 18, 1925 in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It killed 695 people and injured over 2,000.

What is a F12 tornado? ›

An F12 tornado would have winds of about 740 MPH, the speed of sound. Roughly 3/4 of all tornadoes are EF0 or EF1 tornadoes and have winds that are less than 100 MPH. EF4 and EF5 tornadoes are rare but cause the majority of tornado deaths.

Is there a F7 tornado? ›

Well, as others have said, there is no such thing as an F7 tornado since the scale, for all practical purposes, only goes up to F5. But the other issue is that tornadoes are not rated based on their appearance, nor is appearance necessarily a good indicator of intensity.

Is a 40 mph tornado bad? ›

F-0: Gale tornado (40 – 72 mph). Light damage. Some damage to chimneys; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; sign boards damaged.

What is a T5 tornado? ›

According to the T-scale, wind speeds for a T5 typically range between 137 and 160mph. They also typically have a track length of 4.7-9.9km and a track width of 47-99 metres. However, tornadoes can be given separate ratings for damage, wind speed (T), track length (L), track width (W) and track area (A).

Can you survive an EF5 tornado in a basem*nt? ›

But while the most violent and rare EF-5 tornado can level and blow away almost any house, most tornadoes are much weaker and can be survived using some safety precautions – chiefly, taking advantage of a basem*nt if your home happens to have one.

How rare is an EF4 tornado? ›

Violent tornadoes, those rated F4/EF4 and F5/EF5 are rare and only make up 2% of all recorded tornadoes.

Is a bathtub safe during a tornado? ›

So, while it's not a foolproof plan — remember that bathtubs aren't inherently heavy enough to stand firm no matter what — sheltering yourself in the tub is a good idea if your bathroom is windowless and located in your home's interior.

What state has never had a tornado? ›

Tornadoes have been documented in every U.S. state (not including the non-state territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico) at least once since 1950, although some regions and states are hit by tornadoes far more than others.

What's the worst tornado level? ›

The scale ranks tornadoes from F0 to F5, with F0 being the least intense and F5 being the most intense. F5 tornadoes were estimated to have had maximum winds between 261 mph (420 km/h) and 318 mph (512 km/h). F5 damage in Bridge Creek, Oklahoma, from the May 3, 1999, tornado.

What causes most deaths during a tornado? ›

Flying debris causes most deaths and injuries during a tornado.

What causes 70 of all tornado deaths? ›

Although violent tornadoes comprise only 2%of all tornadoes, they are responsible for nearly 70% of tornado-related fatalities. Tornadoes develop from severe thunderstorms in warm, moist, unstable air along and ahead of cold fronts.

What is the major cause for damage in tornadoes? ›

The damage from tornadoes comes from the strong winds they contain and the flying debris they create. It is generally believed that tornadic wind speeds can be as high as 300 mph in the most violent tornadoes.

What causes more deaths earthquakes or tornadoes? ›

Total number of deaths by disaster type

Earthquakes are one of the most deadly natural disasters. In the last 20 years, they have killed more than half a million people and affected more than 120 million. Earthquakes killed 58% or 721,318 people. Storms killed 16% or over 199,000 people.

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