NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

The Morning Brew: Oklahoma becomes storm central

Advertisement

Oklahoma makes weather history

THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern.
THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern.

Oklahoma's weather is crazy by any standard. Cold weather one day. Short sleeves the next. Maybe a little snow, hail or freezing rain in between. One never knows. Sort of. 

Oklahoma's history of devastating tornadoes is established. But its place in the history of weather science is a story not often told. Our local TV stations and the National Weather Service have loads of technology at their disposal, but in the beginning the business of predicting when and where a tornado might crop up was decidedly low-tech.  Seventy years ago this week Oklahoma made weather history, but without all the bells and whistles we have today. From the Weather Channel:

Severe weather forecasting as we know it today was essentially launched 70 years ago this week, thanks to a courageous forecast and an unusual pair of tornadoes within five days striking an Oklahoma Air Force base.

What would happen on the evening of March 20, 1948 – in an era before Doppler radar, satellites, and computer model guidance – would rattle even the most hardened, experienced forecaster at the time.

Stationed at Tinker AFB on the southeast side of Oklahoma City were two Air Force meteorologists, Maj. Ernest Fawbush and Capt. Robert Miller.

On that night, an F3 tornado hit Tinker. The next day, those in the base's weather department began discussing whether or not such an event could be predicted. It didn't take them long to find out, and by the end of the next day, the first-ever tornado watch had been issued. 

After some understandable queasiness, at 3 p.m., Fawbush and Miller issued what was the equivalent of today's tornado watch for the base.

Both meteorologists worried this forecast would bust, hurting public confidence in weather forecasts and their forecast careers.

The base prepared by moving personnel and aircraft to hangars.

Just after 6 p.m., a tornado touched down at Tinker AFB. It caused $6 million in damage at the base, but no injuries were reported.

The first operational tornado forecast was a success.


Sunset over the National Severe Storms lab radar domes in Norman. Staff photo by Steve Sisney
Sunset over the National Severe Storms lab radar domes in Norman. Staff photo by Steve Sisney

Today Oklahoma is home to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma operates a well-respected meteorology program and almost as much as anything else, Oklahomans still love talking about the weather. 

#ICYMI

Oklahoma helicopter crewman gets Arlington burial

OSBI looking into grade tampering 

 Zoo's mane caused by tumor 

Trae Young headed to NBA

Read more Morning Brew

The weather

Last sips


Related Photos
THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern.

THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e4dd72b33b4533d94f7bab0141dfa7d1.jpg" alt="Photo - THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern." title="THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern."><figcaption>THUNDERSTORM: The wall cloud which produced the June, 1998 OKC tornadoes passes over Lake Hefner. Archive photo by Paul Hellstern.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4bcddce1762f057d264ea0f7f1726356.jpg" alt="Photo - Sunset over the National Severe Storms lab radar domes in Norman. Staff photo by Steve Sisney" title="Sunset over the National Severe Storms lab radar domes in Norman. Staff photo by Steve Sisney"><figcaption>Sunset over the National Severe Storms lab radar domes in Norman. Staff photo by Steve Sisney</figcaption></figure>
Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›

Comments