On June 8, 1974, the worst tornado outbreak in Tulsa history occurred, causing damage in Tulsa proper, Stroud, Mannford, Kiefer, Skiatook, Sapulpa, Broken Arrow and Owasso. Often called the “Brookside” tornado, the storms of that day caused excessive damage over a nearly 40 square mile radius, one of the largest in recorded history.
Miraculously, there was only one death in Tulsa: 70 year old Joseph Byars. 13 others died during the outbreak, including a 2 year old girl who died from drowning. Not surprisingly, drowning is one of the leading causes of death during extreme weather events.
The tornadoes knocked out the power to more than 80,000 homes and buildings. Floods destroyed homes that had their roofs ripped off by the heavy winds. Because of the excessive damage, roads became impassable, thus hampering rescue efforts.
The damage and death tolls from these storms would have been much greater and more widespread if the tornadoes had stayed consistently on the ground and skipping over property. This is actually a common behavior in tornadoes, but it doesn’t work exactly the way most people think.
Tornadoes don’t actually “skip”. Rather, there are changes in the circulation, or perhaps the strength of the structure plays a key. More than one tornado can be involved, making it appear as though the tornado has jumped over and around. Occasionally, tornadoes will retract, and touch back down, but most of the time, this is not the case.