By Rowynn Ricks
CNHI News Service
WOODWARD — Just how destructive was the tornado that struck Woodward on April 9, 1947?
The tornado, which was almost two miles wide and had winds of almost 300 mph, was rated as an F5, the classification given to the most destructive tornadoes.
In fact, the 1947 Woodward tornado, which left 107 dead and almost 1,000 injured, holds the record for the deadliest tornado ever to hit Oklahoma.
But after 60 years, some may find it hard to comprehend the destructive power of the tornado. To help people today better understand, Woodward City/ County Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer compiled statistics to illustrate just how much damage the tornado would do if it struck again.
‘Anything above ground would be leveled’
Lehenbauer said if the tornado was to take the same path today, on average, areas west-northwest of 9th and east-southeast of 34th would see significant damage.
This means most areas in the 1300 through 3600 blocks of Oklahoma and points north and south of this area for about two miles would be destroyed. All other residential and business areas within Woodward city limits would see moderate to severe levels of damage.
Lehenbauer consulted a computer model, which used census data, to determine approximately 2,400 structures, including businesses and homes, would be destroyed and another 2,600 would be damaged.
If only one-fifth of the people living in the direct path were home at the time and not in an underground shelter, he said, it would result in about 10 times the casualties seen in 1947, adding the number of people injured would be in the thousands.
And, with such strong winds, Lehenbauer said most modern above-ground saferooms would destroyed.
“Anything above ground would be leveled,” he said.
‘The most prepared persons will fare best’
In addition to illustrating the destructive power of the 1947 tornado, Lehenbauer said he wanted to do the comparison in order to emphasize the need for people to be properly prepared for catastrophic weather, including tornadoes.
While it is unlikely another tornado of that magnitude will strike Woodward again, especially along the same path, he said it is important to be prepared.
Lehenbauer encourages every household and business obtain a NOAA weather alert radio. The weather alert radio is a good backup to other weather alert systems, which can sometimes fail.
Even if the electricity goes out, a person with a weather radio still can get important weather information and updates.
He said Department of Homeland Security recommends having a basic emergency kit, which, in addition to the NOAA weather or other radio, should contain a power-generating flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, medications, and other essential items. Department of Homeland Security also recommends having a three-day supply of food and water.
“The most prepared persons will fare best,” Lehenbauer said.
‘Improve our ... level of preparedness’
In addition to encouraging people to take the appropriate measures to themselves safe, Lehenbauer said the Woodward City/County Emergency Management office also works with the city to help keep the community safe.
The city of Woodward has taken many preparedness measures to help ensure safety if a tornado was to strike the community, he said.
Lehenbauer said the city has more than 20 storm sirens and is adding more each year.
“Community leaders have made investments in equipment which will allow us to detect severe storms approaching the community at the earliest possible time,” he said.
He said his office has special teams trained to respond to emergency situations as well as the appropriate emergency equipment. But Lehenbauer understands being prepared for emergency situations, including severe weather, is a continuing process.
“We are always looking at new technologies and measures which will further improve our community’s level of preparedness,” he said.
More information about how families and businesses can get prepared for severe weather can be found at www.ready.gov or on National Weather Service’s Web site, www.weather.gov/norman.
Ricks writes for the Woodward News.
By Rowynn Ricks
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