A hot summer could be on the way for Texoma

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
While the worst part of the spring severe weather season is almost over, storm clouds like these could spell trouble anytime of the year in North Texas and Southern Oklahoma.

The North Texas and Southern Oklahoma area has seen its share of rough weather over the last few weeks but the spring severe weather season is almost over.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Allison Prater said while there can be severe storms any time of the year, this area's most active time for them is from March through May.

That is when the area generally sees its most unstable weather patterns move through. However, a look at statistically based maps provided by the NWS shows that North Texas and Southern Oklahoma are part of a region of the country that remains susceptible to strong storms all summer long and in fact, sees a secondary higher risk of severe storms in the late summer and early fall. Those same maps show that severe storms, even tornados, are more possible in that area all year round than in some other parts of the country.

The long range forecast provided by the NWS shows that the North Texas and Southern Oklahoma area will have a greater than average chance of above average temperatures from May through the end of the year. The greatest risk for increased heat is, of course, for the period between May and October. 

While those long range forecasts do say that the area should expect warmer than normal temperatures, they don't mean every day will be above normal. There will be variations along the way. The same holds true with the long range forecast with precipitation which actually shows the area stands equal chances for both above and below normal precipitation throughout the rest of this year.

So keeping an eye to the sky and to local weather forecast is always a good idea in this area. Grayson County Office of Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers seconded that advice recently when asked about severe weather in this area.

"Plan ahead. Keep up with the information the U.S. National Weather Service provides us all. Their forecasts and warnings will help keep you safe. NWS is our favorite federal agency at OEM," Somers said in an email.

As this area of North Texas and Southern Oklahoma continue to grow, people move into the area who may not be familiar with some of the terms used in those notices from the National Weather Service.

Terms like a tornado watch and a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm watch or warning have very particular meanings that sometimes get overlooked as people are out and about trying to enjoy the generally nice weather in the area especially in the spring and summer months.

Prater said she likes a food analogy to explain things.

She said to imagine one is making cupcakes. A watch means you have all of the ingredients for a severe thunderstorm or tornado. In the food analogy, the eggs, butter, sugar and flour all there on the counter.  A watch means watch for those ingredients to start coming together. And that is the time to get together the supplies you might need later like a flashlight, a charged communication device and an extra battery for that. 

A tornado warning means those ingredients have been mixed together and the cupcakes are cooking and the treats are on their way. A warning means do something now to protect yourself. If you are in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter in a more permanent structure. If you are driving on the roadway get into a permanent structure if possible and avoid taking shelter in places like underpasses. At home, she said, find the most interior room in the building. A lot of the time, she said, that is going to be a closet or bathroom. Getting away from outer walls and windows is the key here so put as many interior walls between your family and the outside as possible. Also, she said, grab something to protect your head like a pillow or sporting helmets if you happen to have them handy. Also, take along a way to keep up with the weather reports whether that's a radio, cell phone or laptop. 

Somers said surviving the weather event is the goal but one also has to be ready to act after surviving. 

"One of the most common impacts of North Texas spring severe weather is temporary loss of electric power. If we learned nothing else from February 2021, we should all have a plan to hunker down for a period of time. It used to be that we preached “for three days” and now best practices warn “7-10 days.”  If we take any preparedness actions, we should prepare to manage what often is truly just the inconvenience of a temporary loss of power – or any utility. If we don’t prepare, then the loss can become more of a life safety issue," she said.

She added that while many of us now rely on wireless phones for communications in the event of an emergency, they don't help if the battery dies.

"The simple step of charging those phones on days when severe weather is forecast means you will be able to call 9-1-1 if needed. If your phone battery is dead, you won’t.  For those who use electricity and battery-dependent assistive technology and medical devices, personal planning is critical. Everyone should have a power-backup plan," she said.

Grayson County offers a free public service of emergency notifications including severe weather warnings. "This is offered through an inter-local partnership with all of our sixteen cities. No matter where you live or work in Grayson County, you can sign up for this service, or update your enrollment, at  bit.do/GCOEM," she said.

She also suggested that people follow Grayson County OEM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on the Grayson County website.

"All imminent weather information is also published through those accounts. You should have multiple ways to receive warning in the event one way fails you. We recommend everyone use CodeRED, a weather radio, smart phone apps, broadcast and other media.  And please remember, outdoor warning sirens are used to warn people who are outside. Please do not rely on those if you are inside or in a vehicle. As a general rule, we should all understand that radios, tvs and our HVAC systems will drown those warnings out unless we are outside."