Are Tornadoes New to You?

I have decided to take a moment to convey a little life history of mine. The main purpose is to provide persons new to the area information about weather emergencies and what they can expect. In addition, it may provide a little humor and sincerity to your day.


Many of you are not aware that I am not originally from Cordell. While many of my extended family resides around this area, I spent the first part of my life in California. The weather was always pleasant, I was amazed how “cold” it was when a thin layer of ice formed atop a small puddle, and it was rarely breezy enough to fly a kite. I grew up in a city where my neighborhood was more populated than the entire city of Cordell. As many of you can imagine, the city life has its advantages: being within walking distance of any number of different restaurants, stores open 24-hours for whatever you need, large department stores all around, and , my personal favorite, 24-hour doughnut shops. However, with the convenience comes a cost: crime. There was never a night I didn't hear police sirens in the distance, never a day I didn't see graffiti, gangs, or other evidence of crime. I remember my parents talking about moving out of the city to get away from the ever increasing crime.


The Allen Family Reunion has been routinely hosted in Cordell for decades. I had traveled here before, but I was too young to remember. I recall making a visit just before the decision was made to leave California. I was ten years old and the thought of leaving my friends made me hesitant to enjoy the prospect. However, the first recollection of my visit here was chasing my brothers around the courthouse lawn sometime after dark in the early summer of 1995. The thought of being outside playing after dark was new to us. Nonetheless in the middle of downtown! Something like that would never have happened in California. Not without the worry of gang violence, a mugging, or shooting. The entire atmosphere of Cordell was so welcoming, so comforting. It was the end of that summer our family made the move.


Fairly familiar with earthquakes, I was excited about the idea of tornadoes. First, because I believed that tornadoes were very rare and second, because I knew you could see a tornado coming and hide. What I wasn't prepared for were the severe thunderstorms producing 100 mile per hour straight winds, the large hail, the blizzards, ice storms, and all of the other standard issue weather patterns. Living here for the better part of two decades has given me a little insight into what to expect and I am fortunately in a position to covey my story. Hopefully everyone reading this gains a little knowledge and comfort.


Since we are in the midst of thunderstorm season, I will share what I know and how to prepare. So, what can you newbies expect? Wind, wind, and more wind. Constant winds of 20mph gusting to 35mph are common. The wind definitely comes sweeping down the plains. During severe thunderstorms, you should expect wind gusts in excess of 58mph. It may sound like a tornado outside, but straight line winds from 50-75mph are not uncommon, sometimes lasting throughout the day and night. Even on days and nights where there isn't a storm in sight, winds should be expected. When it comes to TORNADOES, here is what you need to know:


    • Thunderstorm Watch

      • A severe thunderstorm watch means that the potential exists for the development of thunderstorms which may produce large hail or damaging winds. When a watch is issued, you should go about your normal activities, but keep an eye to the sky and an ear to the National Weather Service's weather radio or local radio and television stations for further updates and possible warnings.

    • Thunderstorm Warning

      • A severe thunderstorm warning, on the other hand, means that a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is imminent based on doppler radar information. You should move indoors to a place of safety. Schools should think about delaying departure of buses, and should take quick action to delay outdoor sports activities, etc.

    • Tornado Watch

      • A tornado watch, like a severe thunderstorm watch, means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to form, but it also means that a few storms may be capable of producing a tornado.

    • Tornado Warning

      • A tornado warning is the ultimate in severe warnings, it means that a tornado is either occurring or imminent based on radar. You should take cover immediately.


    • Many cities and towns, Cordell included, have some type of public alert siren system. These systems are designed to alert persons who are outside and may not be monitoring a weather radio or local TV station. Make your best effort not to rely solely on the sirens to alert you, especially if you are inside your home.

      • Cordell will sound its sirens upon the approach of a life threatening storm system which specifically includes tornadoes. The warning sirens will blow for a full three (3) minutes when a life threatening storm is observed or imminent based on radar. Please be aware that the sirens warn of potential, life threatening weather and you should take cover immediately. After life threatening weather had passed, a 30 second “All Clear” siren blast will be given. If additional life threatening weather events are observed after the “All Clear” signal – another three (3) minute tone will be sounded.


    • Make arrangements with your family prior to stormy weather. The City of New Cordell does NOT own a building capable of operating as a public shelter. In addition to the costs and liabilities involved, there are significant dangers in traveling to the public shelter. FEMA has recommended to travel to a safe place before the storm and take shelter immediately upon tornado warnings. We mirror that advice. Never wait for the sirens to sound before you travel. Have a plan about where to seek shelter and where to meet after an emergency event.

      • After a major weather event, cellular telephone and Internet services may be disrupted. Have a family communication plan just in case you find yourself with no cell service.

      • Register your storm shelter with the fire department. Registration assists first responders in locating shelters which may be covered in debris.


    • Stay away from damaged areas. Many people become interested is areas of town affected by the storm and travel to them. Traveling to damaged areas creates a problem for emergency workers and puts your life in danger. Debris, flooding, and downed power lines create a dangerous environment for everyone. Stay away!

      • If you want to help, please check in with the emergency operations center. Volunteers will be organized and assigned as needed.

    • Report life-threatening injuries immediately by dialing 9-1-1. The emergency dispatch center will prioritize and dispatch emergency calls as necessary.

    • Check in with your relatives! Emergency lines tend to be crammed with calls from family members seeking relatives that may have been affected by the storm. It would help us out a great deal if you check in with Auntie Em before she calls us worried sick about you.

    • If you are not severely affected, be patient. Expect power outages, utility cut-offs (including gas and water), and other disruptions in services. Know that we will be doing all we can to restore services.

    • Be prepared to see multiple agencies responding to the incident. In addition to local emergency services, you may see county, state, and federal agencies. This includes the Oklahoma National Guard. We take scene security very seriously. Not only do we want to keep gawkers out of the disaster area, we seek to eliminate any type of looting which commonly follows a major disaster.

    • Stay tuned for updates from the city as operations more forward to recovery.



When properly prepared and acting accordingly during life threatening weather, we can avoid most, if not all, injury and death. The City of New Cordell has a professional emergency services staff and a number of volunteers to assist when severe weather is predicted. We do everything we can to ensure proper warnings are given and you have plenty of time to take appropriate shelter. So, keep your eyes and ears open this season and let's continue to be a Storm Ready community!


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