Storms expected in Oklahoma tornado zone as rescue work continues

Storms expected in Oklahoma tornado zone as rescue work continues
NASA's MODIS satellite captures the storm system that generated a EF4 tornado -- distinguished by the thick cord of clouds at the center -- as it hit Moore, Okla. (NASA / Getty Images)

A series of thunderstorms is expected throughout the day Tuesday, potentially hampering rescue crews as they work their way through the wreckage of the massive tornado that cut a 20-mile path of destruction through central Oklahoma, forecasters said.

Storms -- some bringing lightning and hail -- are expected on and off Tuesday and into the early evening, said David Andra, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Norman, Okla.

However, the region can expect to "get a break in the weather after today" with clearer conditions, although there's a potential for storms to return later in the week, he said.


Andra said the conditions in the area -- with temperatures in the high 50s and north winds moving at about 15 mph -- make it unlikely for another tornado.

The area most at risk for tornadoes Tuesday is north Texas, but Andra told the Los Angeles Times that he doubted any storms would be as severe as Monday's twister. "Tornadoes like yesterday's are so rare," Andra said.

The Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where Monday's storm wiped out entire neighborhoods and killed at least 24 people, sits in the plains area dubbed as Tornado Alley, a region prone to twisters. Andra explained that elevated risk comes by way of warm, moist vapors carried north from the Gulf of Mexico. When that air meets with the higher elevation of the plains, he said, "it creates a lot of instability."

Forecasters predicted in recent days a high chance for strong tornadoes, he said. Even though the conditions appeared conducive to such an event, he said residents had little warning Monday as tornadoes materialize quite swiftly.

"The morning starts off mostly sunny," he said. "It seems like a typical morning to most folks. The atmosphere goes through a rapid change."

When a twister materializes, he said, deeper and taller clouds begin to fill the sky. Surface winds pick up. The air starts to feel more humid.

After the storm, conditions become more clear, he said. "The weather becomes much more calm."

Soon after Monday's tornado, he said, the sky over Moore became less cloudy and brighter, and winds fell below 10 mph.


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