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  • Writer's pictureMichael Thornton

Anticyclonic tornadoes on a marginal weather day - April 30th, 2024 weather operations

Storms entering SW Tillman County.

On April 30th, 2024, the Storm Prediction Center issued a marginal risk for the potential of low-end severe weather in Tillman County during the afternoon/evening hours. Wind gusts up to 60 mph and hail as large as golf balls were possible. The tornado threat was very low. Around 5:30 PM weak storms began moving northeast toward Tillman County from Hardman County, Texas. I decided to go west on Highway 5 from Tipton and watch them come into the county.

Looking West from HWY 5/CR EW178

At 6:26 PM, the National Weather Service in Norman issued the first Severe Thunderstorm Warning of the day for a storm that had made its way into Tillman County. This storm was mainly elevated with the main concern being very large hail and severe winds. I watched from Highway 5 and CR EW178 as this storm pushed northeast toward the Town of Tipton. Just after 7 PM a wall

Large wall cloud on the tornadic storm as seen from HWY 5.

cloud started to form and then fifteen minutes later I watched as rain curtains began circulating over the Town of Tipton. Roughly around 7:22 PM, a TCEMA Storm Spotter came over the radio and informed me that a tornado was on the ground to the Northwest of Frederick. Immediately I repositioned as the tornado was obscured by rain from my location and headed east on Highway 5 towards the City of Frederick. I called the TCEMA Storm Spotter to verify that I had heard what he transmitted correctly as the

transmission was very static. He informed me that he was looking at a tornado and I forwarded the information to the National Weather Service. I turned down NS 221 from Highway 5 and noticed a funnel cloud developing on the western side of the clear slot. I transmitted over the radio "Officials in Tipton and Manitou, continue sounding your

From TCEMA Spotter, Mike Anderson

sirens" as this storm was right in between the two towns. At 7:52 PM, the National Weather Service informed me that there was increasing low-level rotation on another storm to the Southwest of Frederick. Three minutes later a TCEMA Storm Spotter near Davidson reported a funnel and a wall cloud on the back side of the storm. At 7:59 PM, Manitou Fire Department and Tillman County EMS were dispatched to a medical call in Manitou right as severe weather was impacting the town. I made a special request to the NWS (National Weather Service) and asked them to give me detailed information about the storm so I could relay it to the first responders. A few minutes later, multiple firefighters and civilians reported a funnel cloud going through the town. I repositioned myself back south towards the City of Frederick as another massive supercell started to close in on the City. At 8:13 PM, the NWS notified me that

Developing funnel cloud 1-mile east of Frederick.

they were going to issue a Tornado Warning for circulation approaching the City. Without hesitation, I sounded the Outdoor Warning System in the City of Frederick. The entire storm was rotating rapidly. I remember thinking to myself "Wow, in all of my years of storm chasing, I've never seen rotation like this before." Photos of funnel clouds from residents in Frederick began to flood my phone and I passed the information off to the NWS. I repositioned myself at the Great Plains Technology Center in Frederick where golf ball-sized hail slammed into my vehicle, so I hid under a tree in hopes that the leaves and branches would stop most of the damaging impacts. A few minutes passed and the hail ceased and was replaced by heavy rain. I sat at the intersection of NS 223 and Highway 5 and relayed what I saw to the NWS. At 8:36 PM I informed them that a wall cloud was forming on the storm. A few minutes later I wrote "Still 1 mile east of Frederick starting to get wrapped in rain at my location. Funnel cloud halfway to the ground." The storm became heavily rain-wrapped shortly after and for safety reasons I decided to reposition myself to US-70 in between Davidson and

Person farming!

Grandfield. I remember driving down US-70 and seeing someone farming on their land all while hell was breaking loose just a few miles to their northwest. I remember saying to myself "There is nothing more Oklahoman than that!" By this point, it was 9:10 PM and the Tornado Warned storm had moved into eastern parts of Tillman County. I was on a conference call with my storm spotters, the Sheriff, and at times stakeholders in the county, keeping them all updated. Myself and

You can see the top levels of the supercell in this photo.

other TCEMA Storm Spotters near Hollister noticed a wall cloud on the storm and I relayed the information to the NWS. I sat at the intersection of US-70 and HWY-54 for the next 20 minutes and at 9:29 PM, a funnel cloud developed on the storm. Ten minutes later, the NWS wrote "We believe there is a TDS signature emerging east/northeast of Hollister. A tornado appears to be in progress. 3-5 miles east/northeast of Hollister

at present time." I repositioned to US-70 and CR NS 233 so I could try to identify this "tornado." At 9:49 PM, I saw a flash of lightning and something wedge-shaped in the rain curtains and wrote in NWSChat "I believe I see something on the ground." Not a moment later another flash lit up the sky and I wrote "Tornado on the ground Hollister." The

tornado quickly became wrapped in rain and I repositioned myself to US-54 and EW188 where I met up with another TCEMA Storm Spotter. The time is now 10:09 PM. The NWS informs our agency that an anticyclonic tornado is ongoing near Loveland, just to my Southeast. Two tornadoes are currently on the ground. I contact city officials in Grandfield

Stuck in between multiple tornadic supercells.

and inform them to sound the sirens as a tornado is just to their NW and moving towards the town. A new Tornado Warning is issued for the City of Frederick and Hollister, but power is out in the City of Frederick and there is no way to warn the citizens so I quickly contact the Frederick Fire Chief and ask him to sound the sirens on his fire apparatuses, however, I realize that it's unnecessary as the rotation is now SE of the City. Inflow winds start to increase as winds feed into the monster supercell to my east near Loveland and I tell my TCEMA Storm Spotter that we're in a dangerous position and it's time to move west towards Davidson. At 10:29 PM, the NWS writes "Debris up to 10kft with the anticyclonic tornado. Indicative of strong damage potential." I immediately inform the sheriff of this and my desire to perform a rapid damage assessment in the area. He agreed with my request and we put together a plan to perform such an assessment immediately following the departure of storms in the county. Additionally, I ask the Grandfield Fire Department to help with operations if they are not affected by storms. Ten minutes later I position myself at the intersection of NS221 and US-70. Lightning flashes and I see what looks like a very large tornado on the tornado-

Performing damage assessments.

warned storm near Frederick, but I don't write anything to the NWS until another flash of lightning goes off and I see the tornado again. Storms exited the county an hour later and damage assessments were underway. During our assessments, we mainly find damage to trees and sheet metal. We call off all rapid damage assessments at 2 AM due to the Deep Red Creek overflowing and making roads in the area unpassable. I finally go to sleep around 4 AM.

I woke up four hours later and immediately began assessing the damage across Tillman County. At around 8:30 AM, a representative from Tom Cole's office called to offer assistance in light of the tornadoes. I respectfully informed them that I was still determining the extent of the damage, but so far, there was nothing particularly concerning. By 3 PM, I had sent a detailed six-paragraph email to local and state stakeholders, outlining all the recorded damage and confirming that no assistance was needed from the State. I also posted the following statement on our Facebook page: "TCEMA has conducted surveys throughout the day and we have concluded the following. Primarily, our damage across Tillman County focuses on snapped tree limbs/uprooted trees, and county roads that have been affected by flooding. Additionally, our agency found damage at the Frederick Golf Course and Airport. The damage consisted of sheds being destroyed at the golf course as well as trees uprooted/snapped and then at the airport, the roof on a hangar was torn off on the NE side. Elsewhere, we have confirmed minimal structural damage in Hollister and Grandfield. Please continue to submit damage reports to our agency if you know of anything."

Over the following week, I conducted Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) with FEMA and Oklahoma Emergency Management due to the significant flooding that affected several county roads in Tillman County on April 30th, 2024. As of writing this, my agency is awaiting FEMA's decision on whether they will declare a disaster for our county due to the extensive road damage. In closing, I am so thankful that these tornadoes stayed over rural areas and that no one was injured or killed during this absolutely crazy severe weather event. Remember, this event was a marginal risk day! This is why we tell people to take all severe weather days seriously! Thank you for reading!

About the writer: Michael Thornton graduated from Rose State College majoring in Emergency Management. Currently, he is the Director of Tillman County Emergency Management, an Oklahoma Certified Emergency Manager, and the SW Oklahoma Emergency Management Association VP Alternate. In 2024, he was awarded the OEMA Innovator Award for his severe weather operations in Tillman County.



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