warning — the most dire warning — for catastrophic tornadoes for the first time in two years, as tornadoes are expected to targets parts of the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma Monday evening.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued a threat level 5 out of 5 for violent tornadoes for northwestern Texas and western and central Oklahoma, where two million people could be impacted, according to weather.com.
This highest threat level of severe weather was last issued by the SPC just over two years ago on May 18, 2017.
“This event should result in a significant threat to life and property,” the SPC said.
Forecasters also said conditions are favorable “for long-track strong tornadoes and possibly violent tornadoes.”
But tornadoes are not the only things to worry about Monday evening. A major threat of flash flooding is also expected from northwestern Texas into Oklahoma, Kansas, western Missouri and northwestern Arkansas, and storms are also expected to generate destructive hail and high winds.
Schools are already closed in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, for which a rare “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch has already been issued by the SPC, CNN reported.
The designation means that “an outbreak of tornadoes, including the risk of intense and long-track tornadoes” is expected across the watch area.
Several flights at Will Rogers World Airport have been cancelled and officials have advised travelers to expect further delays and cancellations due to severe weather. Airport officials also say the airport is not a public shelter and in the event of a weather emergency, the public should not risk driving to the airport and should shelter-in-place.
Tinker Air Force Base, near Oklahoma City, also evacuated some aircraft.
The office of the Oklahoma governor, Kevin Stitt, said in a statement that the state’s emergency operations center had been activated and that an advance team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been brought in to “help facilitate the delivery of any federal resources that may be needed.”
In a video posted to YouTube (see above) and Twitter, NWS Norman forecasters gave a stern warning to residents and said to expect multiple waves of severe thunderstorms.
“Do not let your guard down on Monday night,” the forecaster said. “It looks like severe storms and flooding will still be a big problem overnight.”
According to weather.com, “numerous supercell thunderstorms will erupt over northwestern Texas and western and central Oklahoma through Monday evening. These storms will be capable of producing strong tornadoes, along with large hail and destructive straight-line thunderstorm winds.” The severe thunderstorms and flooding rain will persist into the overnight hours from northwestern Texas into Oklahoma, parts of Kansas and western Missouri.
As residents of the central and southern plains struggle with the thunderstorms and hail that battered the area over the weekend (52 tornadoes were reported across seven states just over the past three days), many are also remembering the devastating tornado that hit exactly six years ago. On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado hit the city of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people, including 10 children.
“Hug your loved ones a little tighter, today and every day,” the Tinker Air Force Base, which aided in recovery operations, posted on Facebook.