Oklahoma Tornado and Storm Shelters

Oklahoma, located in "Tornado Alley," has experienced more tornados than any other state in the US. Despite the risks, Oklahoma has implemented new technologies and strategies to improve tornado warnings and preparedness, including a network of tornado sirens and improved radar systems. Here are some more facts about tornadoes in Oklahoma.

  • The deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history occurred on May 3, 1999, when an EF5 tornado hit the Oklahoma City metro area and killed 36 people.
  • Oklahoma has experienced over 4,000 tornadoes since 1950, which is more than any other state in the United States.
  • The most active month for tornadoes in Oklahoma is May, with an average of 22 tornadoes occurring during that month.
  • The largest tornado outbreak in Oklahoma history occurred in May 2013, when 56 tornadoes touched down in the state over a period of three days.
  • The fastest recorded tornado wind speed in Oklahoma was 302 mph and occurred in 1999.
  • The Oklahoma City metropolitan area has been hit by more tornadoes than any other metropolitan area in the United States.
  • The first recorded tornado in Oklahoma occurred on April 26, 1893, in the northwestern part of the state.
  • The deadliest tornado outbreak in Oklahoma history occurred on April 9, 1947, when 181 people were killed by tornadoes that touched down across the state.
Documented Oklahoma tornadoes since 1950
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Preparing for Tornadoes in Oklahoma

Tornadoes are a frequent and devastating natural occurrence in Oklahoma, making tornado preparation an essential aspect of life in the state. It is crucial for residents to take the necessary steps to prepare for these events and to understand the potential dangers associated with tornadoes.

Tornadoes can strike suddenly, leaving little time for people to react. By having a plan in place and being prepared, residents can increase their chances of survival and minimize the potential damage caused by the tornado.

Proper preparation can also help to minimize the economic impact of tornadoes. Tornadoes can cause extensive damage to buildings, homes, and infrastructure, resulting in significant financial losses for individuals and businesses. By taking the necessary precautions, such as securing buildings and developing evacuation plans, the potential for damage can be reduced, minimizing the economic impact of these events.

Tornado preparation is important for ensuring that emergency services are not overwhelmed during a tornado event. By being prepared, individuals can take measures to protect themselves and their families, reducing the number of people who require assistance from emergency services. This, in turn, allows emergency services to focus on those who are most in need of their help and resources.

Preparation is an ongoing process that involves education and awareness. By understanding the risks associated with tornadoes and taking the necessary steps to prepare, individuals can help to build a safer and more resilient community. This includes staying informed about tornado warnings and evacuation orders, maintaining emergency supplies, and participating in drills and training exercises.


Tornado Shelters in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, public tornado shelters are typically managed by local authorities. These shelters may be located in government buildings, community centers, schools, or other public buildings.

To find public tornado shelters in your area, you can start by contacting your local county emergency management office or city government office. They may be able to provide you with information on the location of public tornado shelters and the procedures for accessing them during a tornado event.

The American Red Cross in Oklahoma often has information about the location of public tornado shelters and may be able to provide you with other resources related to tornado preparedness and response.

Additionally, local news sources such as TV and radio stations may provide information on the location of public tornado shelters during severe weather events. Some counties also have alert systems that notify residents of severe weather events and the location of public shelters.

It is important to note that not all areas in Oklahoma have public tornado shelters, and some shelters may have limited capacity or require advance registration. It may also be difficult to get to a shelter from your home. For this reason, part of your tornado preparation plan may include installing a tornado shelter in your home or business, if not already equipped. 

Safety Tips for Oklahoma Tornadoes

With Oklahoma experiencing more tornadoes than any other state in the US, it's important to keep a few tips in mind for safety: 

  1. Stay up-to-date on the latest weather reports and watch for tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service. It is important to have multiple sources of information in case one fails. StormWarn is also a great localized warning system for Oklahomans that will send you an alert when it is time to take in your home's immediate area. 
  2. Develop a tornado plan for your home and workplace, and make sure everyone in your household or workplace knows what to do in case of a tornado. Identify safe locations where you can take shelter, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest level of the building.
  3. Practice tornado drills with your family or coworkers to ensure that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Conduct drills at different times of the day or night to prepare for unexpected situations.
  4. Keep an emergency kit on hand that includes food, water, a first aid kit, and other essentials that can sustain you and your family for a few hours, or overnight.
  5. Take steps to secure your property, such as reinforcing windows and doors, securing outdoor items, and trimming trees and branches that may fall during a storm.
  6. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, stay indoors and take shelter in a safe location. If you are sheltering in an interior area of your home, avoid windows, and if possible, cover yourself with blankets, pillows, or a mattress for added protection. (But, the safest plan is a storm shelter.)
  7. If you live in a mobile home, evacuate and seek shelter in a sturdy building or designated storm shelter.
  8. Avoid driving or walking through floodwaters, as they can be deeper and more dangerous than they appear.
  9. Make sure children and pets are kept safe during a tornado event and know where to go in case of an emergency.
  10. Check on your neighbors, particularly those who may need assistance during an emergency, such as the elderly or those with disabilities.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Tornadoes in Oklahoma

Q. What types of tornado shelters are available in Oklahoma?
A: There are many different types of shelters available to you if you live in Oklahoma, including some community shelters, but you will need to do some research, based on where you live. Start by contacting one of the four chapters of the American Red Cross in Oklahoma, or your area's emergency management department. Not all cities offer public community shelters, but several businesses do, depending on the location.

If you own a home, it's a great idea to consider installing your own tornado shelter. There are several kinds to consider in both above-ground and underground varieties, depending on a few factors where you live. (It's best to consult an expert.) The many kinds of tornado shelters will vary in terms of safety features and accessibility.

Q: What is the difference between a public and private tornado shelter in Oklahoma?
A: Public tornado shelters are managed by local authorities and are open to the community during severe weather events. Private tornado shelters are built for personal use, typically within a home or on private property, and are not open to the public. Some larger businesses also manage shelters which they open to the public during tornado activity. 

Q: How can I find the nearest tornado shelter to my home or workplace in Oklahoma?
A: You can find the nearest tornado shelter by checking local government websites, contacting your city or county emergency management office, or using online resources and mapping tools.

Q: Can I bring my pets to a tornado shelter in Oklahoma, or are there designated shelters for pets during severe weather events?
A: Policies for pets in tornado shelters vary by location. Some shelters may allow pets, while others may have designated pet-friendly shelters. Check with the shelter's owner for specific guidelines. If pets are a major concern during a storm, it's probably best to purchase your own tornado shelter to ensure your furry loved ones are safe. 

Q: Are tornado shelters in Oklahoma wheelchair accessible, and what accommodations are available for individuals with disabilities?
A: If a tornado shelter were installed by a city, country or state government office, then it would be required by law to be handicap accessible. But unfortunately, not all cities have public tornado shelters. If you've found a shelter in your area, it's best to check with them to ask about accessibility. 

Q: How do I prepare for a tornado in Oklahoma? What should I bring to the shelter with me?
A: Prepare by having an emergency kit ready. Include water, non-perishable food, medications, flashlights, and a battery-powered radio. Remember that tornadoes are typically over quickly, compared to other emergencies, so you probably only need enough supplies on harnd for a few hours, overnight at the most. Familiarize yourself with the shelter's location and access protocol. If you have a home tornado shelter consider storing these items inside the shelter to avoid last minute confusion. 

Q: How often are tornado shelters in Oklahoma inspected and maintained to ensure their safety and effectiveness?
A: The frequency of inspection and maintenance varies depending on the shelter type and local regulations. Generally, tornado shelters should be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Emergency Management Offices in Oklahoma

When seeking assistance from emergency management offices in Oklahoma, it's important to have accurate contact information readily available. Below is the contact information for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (ODEMHS) and various local emergency management agencies across the state. Please note that while we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of these details.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (ODEMHS)

Primary Contact:

  • Address: 2401 Lincoln Blvd, Suite C51, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
  • Mailing Address: PO Box 53365, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3365
  • Phone: 405-521-2481
  • Fax: 405-521-4053
  • ODEMHS Contact Page

Regional Emergency Management Offices:

Oklahoma City Emergency Management Office

Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency (TAEMA)

Cleveland County Emergency Management

Comanche County Emergency Management

For a comprehensive directory of all emergency management offices in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma Emergency Management Contacts List (Welcome to Oklahoma's Official Web Site)​​ (Welcome to Oklahoma's Official Web Site)​​ (USA Gov)​.

Stay informed, stay prepared, and keep this information handy for quick access.