Survey teams with the National Weather Service said the deadly tornado which touched down in Bryan County Tuesday night was an EF3 twister with winds of 136-165 mph.
NWS Meteorologist John Pike of the agency’s Norman field office said, shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, the tornado developed east of Blue and grew to half a mile in diameter as it hopped U.S. Route 70 and tracked northeast toward Bokchito. The storm downed power lines and large trees and caused extensive damage to properties along Boyd Road, where the Bryan County Emergency Management Office said resident Debbie Boyd, 58, was killed inside her home. Emergency Management officials could not immediately be reached Friday to confirm reports of a second death caused by the same twister, but estimate the storm damaged or destroyed some 70 homes in all.
“We had five tornadoes across the southeastern part of the state, on Tuesday night,” Pike said. “The one in Bryan County looks to have been, by far, the biggest and to have tracked for the longest. But there were also three tornadoes in Atoka County and one outside Colgate in Coal County.”
The U.S. is hit by about 1,200 tornadoes each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. NOAA reports that, between 1991 and 2010, Oklahoma has been hit by an average of 62 tornadoes each year and most are recorded during April, May and June.
While most tornadoes fail to exceed 100 mph wind speeds, the NWS said larger EF3 tornadoes, like Tuesday’s, can destroy “entire stories of well-constructed homes,” cause significant damage to large buildings and can uproot, and even strip trees of their bark.
Oklahoma saw no tornado deaths in 2018, but this week’s tornadoes and severe weather are believed to have claimed at least two other lives outside Bryan County. The Stephens County Sheriff’s Office said a 57-year-old man was killed Wednesday when he was swept off his four-wheeler by flood waters outside Comanche and Tulsa Police said a man died after he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a creek Tuesday night.
Pike encouraged Texoma residents to regularly check forecasts and advisories when severe weather remains a threat and to take all warnings for tornadoes, flooding, hail, lightning and damaging winds seriously.
“Be near a reliable source of weather information,” Pike said. “Get emergency supplies and a plan together, ahead of time, and know where to go in the event you need to take shelter.”
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DrewSmithHD.