After 1:30 a.m. Sunday, August 6, in the midst of rather heavy thunderstorm activity, a tornado suddenly developed and touched down in the vicinity of South Yale Avenue and East 41st Street South in Tulsa. Those familiar with the area remember it as being mostly merchant and restaurant activity on either side of 41st with the Promenade Mall on the southeast corner of the intersection. Reports say it proceeded mostly eastward along the street for about 6 miles, wreaking major damage including high-rise office buildings (Remington Tower).
Much has been questioned about the failure of the warning sirens to be sounded, with the answer that it formed so quickly that the radar did not show it until it was over a mile from the beginning. Those in ignorance of how that system is set up, including city officials and “news” reporters, seemed to immediately raise a fuss against the City of Tulsa over that situation. Well, the warnings are not controlled by the city, but by the Emergency Management Authority. But by the time its office was aware of the tornado, it had completed its life and another formed farther east to hit Broken Arrow, where those controlling the sirens had some time to activate them.
Many of the “news” people have stressed surprise over the extent of the immediately visible damage, including windows blown out in the tall building and on cars. Actually, the majority of dollar damage now appears to have occurred in the less-known commercial warehouse areas away from the arterial streets. This came to light when TV stations were able to start aerial surveys with camera-equipped drones. According to reports, there were over 150 electric poles taken down as well as traffic poles at intersections.
Interestingly, the electric company, PSO, reported that the power outage of over 17,000 had been reduced to no more than 1,500 by Monday morning with 125 poles replaced by then.
On August 7, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, in my opinion the best of all 435, called into The Pat Campbell Show on KFAQ (formerly KVOO) with intelligent explanations of the situation, particularly the lack of warning sirens. It appears that commentators still don’t understand the situation for they continue to state that it takes 5 to 6 minutes for the radar screen to make a revolution. As an instrument rated pilot and amateur meteorologist, Bridenstine was quite clear to me. The radar sends a very narrow beam and receives a reflected reply to paint a picture on the observation screen. The antenna must then rotate at one degree of elevation from horizontal to how ever elevated it can read.
With each complete rotation, only one degree is read, or seen, thus it requires a large number of rotations to reach the top and return to the bottom. With the tornado forming at low altitude, much of its readings would show no sign of the problem.
It seems to me to be sad that the various “news” sources do seem to not have highly knowledgeable individuals to turn to for more accurate explanations in such situations. These don’t have to be continuously on the payroll, but individuals with some expertise in one or a few particular subjects should be available for consultation and explanation in various circumstances. I do understand their innate rush to be the “fustus with the mostus” in the highly competitive quest for ‘customers’, but the right story should be the very first order of business. Then one doesn’t have to issue a correction without egg on your face.
Another thing, not particularly covered in my observation, was the pictorial evidence that car and building windows were blown out rather than in. That came to my mind, from way back in memory, that tornados are locations of extremely low air pressure. Because of their small diameter and fast motion, the one under discussion moving at about 50 mph, there are major reductions in air pressure as it goes by. Thus we have what is called “explosive decompression” in the more tightly sealed buildings, houses and automobiles. Thus windows explode outward rather than being blown inward, and it appears in some cases even bricks were blown outward rather than just knocked down. Also, it has occurred to me a reason how in this case a tornado could get together in such a short time, compared to what is normal, is that even the potentiality did not appear on radar. Unfortunately, space allotted does not permit going into that at this time. Simply, it is possible that topography in the area could have been a factor. Also, there was a strong south wind all afternoon that could have been a factor.