Dave Floyd’s been working in the National Weather Service for 15 years, but he’s already seen enough tornado damage to last a lifetime.
Chasing storms that spawned some 58 tornadoes in the Oklahoma City area during a single day nearly nine years ago will do that.
“They were just dropping down all over the place,” said Floyd, a meteorologist who saw eight of the twisters himself. “They started about 4:50 in the afternoon and just kept going well after dark.
“The devastation those things caused in southwestern Oklahoma City was pretty phenomenal.”
In the end, the NWS would tally nearly $1.3 billion in damage, 40 deaths and 675 injuries caused by the storms.
Floyd wasn’t in the office at the time. He’d been working the midnight shift the night before and wouldn’t go back in until the midnight after.
In between, he later learned, his NWS coworkers in Norman had kept a silent vigil throughout the afternoon and evening.
“They said it was very quiet in the office because everybody knew what was happening and couldn’t do anything about it except keep the warnings going,” said Floyd, who works in Kansas as a forecaster in the service’s Goodland office. “It’s humbling.”
Here’s a look severe storms that have ripped through the region:
April 26, 1991
Deaths: 17, including 13 in Andover
Injuries: 225, including 150 in Andover
Damage: $500 million
Description: The tornado lasted for 46 miles, starting in Sedgwick County, ripping through neighborhoods and McConnell Air Force Base on the way to Andover east of town. In Andover, the twister obliterated the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park.
May 4, 2007
Damage: $250 million, with nearly 1,000 homes and businesses destroyed, another 500 or so damaged.
Description: The tornado, with maximum winds of 205 mph, ran for nearly 29 miles and stretched as wide as 1.7 miles, according to the NWS. It had started about 9 p.m. in Comanche County, then dissipated 65 minutes later near Greensburg. Within a year, the Small Business Administration had provided $30.7 million in loans to residents and businesses.
June 8, 1966
Damage: $250 million
Description: The tornado struck at 7 p.m., ran for 21 miles and stretched as much as a half-mile wide, tearing through town and damaging homes and buildings, including portions of the Washburn University campus.
June 11, 2008
Deaths: Two: one in Chapman and one east of Soldier
Damage: $22.8 million
Description: Three tornadoes came from two separate supercells moving through northcentral and northeast Kansas after 10 p.m., with the strongest tornado producing peak winds of 170 mph that tossed cars at Little Apple Honda, destroyed a hardware store, tore the roof off a fraternity house and ripped through the Kansas State University campus. In Chapman, two churches and 70 homes were destroyed, and another 250 homes were damaged.
May 3, 1999
Damage: $1 billion
Description: The tornado, which at one point stretched a mile wide, started near Amber, Okla., and tracked 37 miles northeast into and through the Oklahoma City metro area. It was part of an outbreak that caused 40 deaths overall, 675 direct injuries and nearly $1.3 billion in property damage. Among the dead was a woman blown out from under the Shields overpass of Interstate 35.