Disaster magnet: Oklahoma at risk of fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes – all at the same time

If you’re averse to natural disasters, consider avoiding Oklahoma today – a hotbed for hazards.

Fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes are all possible in the Sooner state today.

* The western part of the state is in “extreme”  fire danger

Extreme to exceptional drought, very low relative humidity and triple digit heat have combined to create explosive fire potential.

(National Weather Service)
(National Weather Service)

“Any fires that develop will spread rapidly,” writes the National Weather Service, which hoisted a red flag warning for the western Oklahoma. “Outdoor burning is banned…”


Today’s fire outlook (National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)

“Don’t even breathe or blink your eyeballs,” writes Oklahoma’s state climatologist Gary McManus only half-jokingly. “The friction from either could start a fire. Just sit motionless somewhere in an asbestos suit.”

Fortunately, after a cold front crosses the region in the next day, the atmosphere won’t be as hot and arid and the fire danger will relax a little. But, out ahead of this front, thunderstorms may erupt later today.

* The western and central part of the state is under a slight risk of severe  thunderstorms, with some tornado potential

“Model solutions strongly suggest the potential for splitting supercells capable of very large hail and damaging winds. Some potential for isolated tornadoes will also be present,” writes the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

(National Weather Service)
(National Weather Service)

SPC says there is a 5 percent chance of tornadoes within 25 miles of a point in southwest Oklahoma, or in the brown-shaded area in the map below:


(National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)

Just as volatility rules the air over Oklahoma, it’s shaky underground too.

* There is a heightened earthquake threat in the central part of the state

On Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a rare special statement to call attention to the tremor risk:

“The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased remarkably since October 2013 – by about 50 percent – significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma,” the statement says.


(U.S. Geological Survey)

So if a tornado, fire, and earthquake strike at the same time, what do you call it? A firenadoquake?

Related: “Oklahoma is burning”: Heat ignites temperature records, wildfires in Southern Plains

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · May 7, 2014

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