Woodward, Okla. —
MAY 2001 DERECHO SWEEPS THROUGH NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA
Neither Barnes nor Lehenbauer knew when the last time was that a derecho hit Northwest Oklahoma.
However, information on the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) website (spc.noaa.gov) lists that a significant derecho impacted the area over Memorial Day Weekend in May 2001. The following are some details from that storm, according to the SPC website.
Over the course of more than 9 hours overnight between May 27 and May 28, 2001, a group of supercell storms moved through Southwest Kansas, much of Oklahoma and into northeast Texas.
Oklahoma Mesonet stations registered a wide swath of maximum wind speeds over 50 mph and in some instances over 70 mph, associated with this 2001 derecho. One station even measured a max wind speed of 93 mph in south central Oklahoma.
Just as with the recent storm in Tulsa, the 2001 storm snapped many power poles and lines, causing over 160,000 residents in the Oklahoma City metro area alone to lose power. The storm even overturned several mobile homes and blew over semi-trucks as they traveled along Oklahoma highways.
The storm also led to several injuries, including 4 people who were injured when a mobile home overturned at Canton Lake. One person in Lawton was killed by a falling utility pole.
So the next time the National Weather Service warns about strong winds, whether or not they use the term derecho, you might want to pay attention and take the appropriate safety precautions.
Since some derechos can pack winds that are close to or at tornado speeds, Lehenbauer said that sometimes just getting indoors isn't enough. Like with tornadoes, he said when there are heavy winds expected over 70 mph, it is best to be inside sturdier structures and not take shelter in travel trailers or single-wide mobile homes.
"If we detect winds at 70 mph or more, we start to worry because that 70 mph point is when we start seeing overturned vehicles and travel trailers. Those winds can even blow over single-wides that are unsecured," he said.