Oklahoma ranks number one in the nation as the state hardest hit financially by tornadoes. A recent study by The Oklahoman revealed $1.6-billion in tornado damage in the past decade.
News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin explains why our storm stats are sky high and why some communities still can't afford to fix the damage.
Mother Nature's fury, tornadoes cause loss of life and property. We can predict when they're coming and we can run, but we still don't know why they happen. News on 6 meteorologist Dick Faurot: "We do not have a complete theory that explains a tornado as far as we know, tornadoes don't serve any functional purpose like hurricanes do, hurricanes transport heat from the tropics to the polar latitudes, they serve as a heat balance, we don't know what the purpose of a tornado is."
But we certainly know what they do and in Oklahoma, tornadoes have caused more damage over the past ten years than anywhere else in the country. "That's just a function of our geographic location our latitude our proximity to the gulf and the cold air from the north and the mountains to the west and the dry air from the Mexican plateau, all those things seem to mix out just about right here in Oklahoma."
Statistics show Oklahoma well above neighboring states in clean up costs. What really bumps us to the top of the list isn't necessarily the frequency of tornadoes, but the May 3rd mega-disaster in 1999, that one day added up to more than $1-billion in damage. "That's the kind of event that's unprecedented. It's never happened before; hopefully it'll never happen again."
While the financial impact of that storm may be fading, smaller communities around the state are still feeling the effects of tornadoes that happened five or six years ago.
A state emergency fund to pay for storm repairs has run dry. Officials say legislators haven't appropriated money for the fund since 2003. That leaves towns, schools and other agencies still waiting for help to cover rebuilding. Nearly $14-million worth of IOU's. Governor Brad Henry is asking for $12-million for that fund this legislative session.
And while Oklahoma is at the top of the damage list, we don't have as many fatalities as you might expect. Technology helps meteorologists warn people a lot sooner that a storm is on the way.