View Full Version : June 8, 1974

Mike Smith
06-03-2008, 10:38 PM
June 8, 1974

For so late in the season and so far south, an amazing tornado outbreak occurred in Oklahoma and Kansas on June 8, 1974. The City of Oklahoma City was struck by tornadoes five times that day the world record for number of tornado strikes affecting a single city in 24 hours. F3 or greater intensity tornadoes occurred from Oklahoma City northeast through Tulsa and as far north as Emporia where an F4 killed six.

I dug the original NAFAX charts received at WKY TV (where I was working, NBC in OKC) out of storage to create this email. Because of the potential similarities between June 8, 1974 and June 5, 2008, I am posting this information in hopes that it helps the meteorological community handle what might be a major tornado situation so that we all serve the public and our clients to the best of our scientific ability.


The closed low was in southwest Wyoming at 12Z. The strongest wind was at ABQ where it was 275 at 85 kt. DDC was 230 at 65 kt.


At 12Z Friday, June 7, there was a digging 547 dm low on the Idaho-Montana border. By 12Z Saturday, June 8, it was a closed 553 dm low 50 E of GJT.


At 12Z on the 8th, the 700mb low was near COS. The OKC temperature was +9C with a Td of +8 and a southwest wind of 50 knots. However, MAF had a temperature of +15 and a spread > 30 (how dry air was reported in 1974).


The 850 low was closed and at the far west tip of the Oklahoma Panhandle. OKC had a 190 wind at 40 knots. DDC had a 5 kt west wind and TOP had an ESE wind at 10 knots. Some of these disturbed winds in Kansas were due to the widespread morning rain across Kansas and Oklahoma.


This is where the data, looking back, is really surprising. At 12Z, the 100mb mixed lifted index at DDC was +5. TOP +4. OKC 0. You had to go to Ft. Worth to go negative and it was only 2. This was because the airmass went stable after the morning rain.


15Z: There was a 994 low between AMA and CDS. The warm front extended to CSM to just east of PNC to the Missouri border east of CNU. The dry line had already passed CDS, where blowing dust was reported, with a Td of 53. LBB was 78/40.

In the warm sector, OKC had a 120 wind at 10 kt. and was 77 over 72. Press was 997 mb. ICT was 67/63 with rain ended in the past hour. Press was 997 mb.

18Z: 991 surface low over GUY. The warm front extended east through the southern row of Kansas counties. Dryline had passed LTS but the T/Td is illegible. CDS had a west wind as 20 kt. and (remember its 18Z) 91 over 36. AMA had a Td of 41 and LBB had a Td of 37.

In the warm sector, OKC was 81/72 with a southeast wind of unk speed.

ICT was 68/68 with rain.

I hand plotted a surface chart (which I still have not found) at either 2 or 3pm. FSI had blowing dust with a temperature of 101 with a dew point (if I recall) in the 30s. I dont remember the max temp. at OKC. The first of the tornadic storms arrived quite early, around 3-3:30 if I recall. TUL and Shawnee areas (which had tornadoes) would have reached higher temperatures that afternoon than OKC.


Three supercell thunderstorms developed just ahead of the dryline. The southernmost of the cluster turned right and the first tornado of the outbreak hit the NWS office at Will Rogers World Airport. The NWS office had to be evacuated.

The 2335Z hand drawn radar chart shows 54,000 ft. tops from south OKC to near BVO.

In Kansas, the thunderstorms are much more widespread (near the warm front) with a 63,000 ft. top near EMP.


F3-F4 tornadoes occurred in the warm sector across central and northeast Oklahoma as well as in eastern Kansas with this event.

Good luck and stay safe everyone!

Rob Satkus
06-03-2008, 11:12 PM
Thanks for all that info Mike, it brings back lots of memories. I lived in Tulsa at the time and saw my first tornado that day as one of the 2 tornadoes to hit Tulsa passed less then a mile from my house ( I was 9 at the time, so no chasing yet!) . We lived in sort of a horseshoe shaped valley in south Tulsa, but I could still see the top half of the funnel with all kinds of debris swirling about. I remember the entire day vividly, from the time I woke up until I went to bed that night after spending lots of time huddled in the hallway. I can't believe that was 34 years ago!!!!!
Drumright Ok was hit by and F4 that day leaving 14 dead. I can still hear the radio announcer on KRMG giving a play by play as the tornado moved into town...certainly a day I and many others will never forget.
Hopefully, we don't have that type of a repeat performance.


Kevin Satkus
06-03-2008, 11:25 PM
Great information. My brother beat me to it but I to remember that day well. I believe that is what sparked my interest in weather.


Robert Bone
06-03-2008, 11:30 PM
Yes, thank you Mike for taking time to post that info. Like Rob, I too remember that day very well in the Tulsa area. I didn't know too much about the weather then, but I do remember it as being a very scary evening in the Tulsa area. We had several episodes of storms due to training of cells, a tremendous lightning storm and lots of rain with serious flash flooding (Mingo Creek prior to all the work on it). Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to post all of that, very interesting.

Chris Lott
06-03-2008, 11:44 PM
Where can I find some more information on this day. I never knew OKC was hit that many times in one day!

Sam Shamburger
06-03-2008, 11:51 PM
Some more information on this outbreak can be found here:


Chris Lott
06-03-2008, 11:57 PM
Some more information on this outbreak can be found here:


Thanks, appreciate it.

Jim Saueressig
06-04-2008, 03:08 AM
I was 6 years old and remember the Emporia tornado well. My grandfather had a construction business and had a portable light plant which he took over to help with search and recovery. I remember he went over there that evening and sometime the next day him coming home to tell of all the damage injuries and the deaths. I still remember some of the damage we had seen days later when we finally went over to see it. It was the talk of the area for many years.

Jim Saueressig
06-04-2008, 01:38 PM
Source (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/top/events/june1974.php)

June 8 1974 is the day a devastating tornado hit Emporia and surrounding areas. The 1974 tornado ripped through populated sections on the northwest side of Emporia killing 6 people and injuring 200.

The tornado was rated an F4 on the Fujita Tornado Intensity scale due to massive damage and destruction at an Emporia shopping center, mobile home park, nursing home, apartment complex and residential homes. Most of the deaths were in the mobile home park, while property damage in Lyon county was estimated at $25 million. Ten farmsteads were also damage in rural areas along the tornado path.

The tornado hit around 6PM, was up to a half mile wide and tracked nearly 38 miles across Lyon, Osage and Shawnee counties before finally dissipating southwest of Auburn.

The June 8, 1974, Emporia tornado occurred on the same date as the infamous 1966 Topeka tornado, and is often overshadowed by the incredible damage of the Topeka tornado.





Other Emporia Hits:


Emporia, KS Tornado, Sept 8, 1895

Destructive Tornado in Kansas

EMPORIA, Kan., Sept. 9.----Emporia and vicinity was visited by a tornado about 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon which did $60,000 worth of damage at the state normal school. Considerable other damage was done down town. Clark's wholesale furniture store was unroofed and the stock of goods badly damaged. But meager reports have been received from the surrounding country, and it is feared the damage has been great. At Hartford, twelve miles southeast of here, several houses are reported blown down, and one woman, Miss Bessie Henry, dangerously injured. At Neosha Rapids a church and several buildings were destroyed.

The News, Frederick, MD 9 Sept 1895


The various dates on the May 1910 is confusing:

Emporia, KS Tornado, May 2, 1910

The tornado which struck Emporia, Ks, last night unroofed several houses and carried one off its foundation. No one was killed or injured. The report that Plymouth, Ks., was destroyed is not true. Investigations today showed that the town suffered no serious damage.
New York Times: May 3, 1910

Emporia, Kansas Tornado May 1, 1910

The tornado, which struck the western section of Emporia unroofed several houses and carried one off its foundation, a large cow barn was crushed like an egg shell and several smaller barns were blown away. No one was killed or injured.
Reno Evening gazette, Reno NV 2 May 1910

Emporia, Kan., May 2,--Mrs. Geo. Davis was blown into a hedge surrounding her home six miles southwest of here during last night’s storm, and was badly injured. In that locality the storm was very severe. Neosho Rapids, nine miles southwest of here was hit hard by the wind. A store building and several frame residences and barns were blown to pieces. A house between Neosho Rapids and Hartford was demolished. The family that occupied this house has not been heard from.

Whole orchards were ruined, the trees lying flat upon the ground.
Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, NV 2 May 1910


A tornado, May 5, swept a path one hundred fifty to two hundred feet wide and a mile in length over the south part of Emporia. More than one hundred buildings were wrecked and the Randolph orchard, at Riverside, one of the best in Lyon County, was a complete loss. There was no loss of life.
History of Emporia and Lyon County Emporia, Kan.: Emporia gazette Print, 1929, Page 96


Very nice collection of historic accounts of tornadoes for Ks:

Kansas Tornadoes Cyclones & Twisters (http://www.gendisasters.com/ks/tornadoes.htm)

Alex Goldstein
06-04-2008, 02:33 PM
June 8, 1974

The 2335Z hand drawn radar chart shows 54,000 ft. tops from south OKC to near BVO.

This is a bit unrelated and may not belong here (mods feel free to move), but how was a hand drawn radar chart done? I ad no idea that there was such a thing.

jeremy wilson
06-04-2008, 04:45 PM
Cant post in forecast thread so I thought maybe here was a proper place to post my opinions on tomorrow. This really reminds me of several late season chases that are similar to the '74 outbreak. It seems to me that every time I bite on a late season high tornado risk in Kansas that I'm always looking south wishing I'd stayed close to home. This time I'm not gonna bite. Gotta wierd feeling about oklahoma on this one and what may occur in the general area the '74 okc naders took place. Good luck to all and please remember chaser courtesy tomorrow. Here's to wedge fest '08!!!!

Jim Saueressig
06-04-2008, 07:26 PM
Emporia Gazette (http://www.emporiagazette.com/news/2008/jun/04/thursdays_weather_pattern_dangerous/)

Thursday's weather pattern dangerous

Similar to conditions of June 8, 1974, when 6 died in Emporia

An outbreak of severe storms might sweep the Great Plains Thursday, according to predictions from meteorologists in Topeka and Wichita. The potential for a megastorm with tornadoes is great enough that forecasters want citizens to have as much advance notice as possible......... (more (http://www.emporiagazette.com/news/2008/jun/04/thursdays_weather_pattern_dangerous/))

Wichita Eagle (http://www.kansas.com/690/story/424100.html)

Last time it looked like this, 22 died

Thursday could bring a tornado outbreak to the Great Plains, according to local meteorologists who are warning residents to pay attention to the weather.

Computer forecasting models for the day bear striking similarities to the conditions present on June 8, 1974, when 39 tornadoes touched down in the southern Plains and killed 22 people -- including six in Emporia.

"I think this event warrants more advance warning," said Robb Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center has been warning for days of an outbreak on Thursday.... (more (http://www.kansas.com/690/story/424100.html))

Mike Smith
06-04-2008, 10:36 PM
Let me explain how the hand-drawn radar charts were created.

At :40 each hour, all NWS WSR-57 radar stations transmitted their coded radar reports to the National Weather Service's National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City.

These reports looked something like this (from memory): MKC LN 6 TRW++ 040/62 180/70; which stated the Kansas City radar operator observed a line of thunderstorms of "very heavy" intensity with 6/10 coverage from a point 40 northeast of Kansas City at 62 nautical miles to a point 70 nm straight south of Kansas City.

A group of chartists, using a light table, created an oversized chart from plotting then blending all of these reports. Coverage was very spotty in the West where they used FAA Air Route Traffic Control radars to supplement the limited WSR-57's.

The oversized map was then scanned and sent out on NAFAX (national meteorological facsimile network) and on its digital successor, DIFAX.

The group in KC ceased operation in 1987.

The background information is here: http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1175%2F1520-0434(1998)013%3C0219%3AHOOUOW%3E2.0.CO%3B2#S12

Personal recollections about the radar analysis group is here:
http://www.smf.selskc.net/index.php?PHPSESSID=d39eefdd35196654cf4cca11001cc8 47&board=17.0


Alex Goldstein
06-04-2008, 10:50 PM
This may be a bit of a stupid question, but I gotta ask, was this procedure done up until the institution of the WSR-88d's? Was this procedure necessary for every radar scan? That must have taken forever...

Mike Smith
06-04-2008, 11:16 PM
Its actually a very good question.

It took two chartists about a half hour to create the national radar summary chart. Yes, there was a time when it was done 24/hours/day. Why? NSSFC needed the radar data to maintain situational awareness during severe weather. Pilots needed the data for strategic flight planning. The meteorologists in the media used it (exclusively) in the days before radar remoting to figure out where the storms were.

The "88" is a bit of a misnomer -- the first installations were not until 1991. The KC operation was discontinued in favor of computerization.

The successor to the old radar code (known as the RAREP code) is still used with the -88D's. Here is the info about it:

Radar Coded Message Composite Image with Tops

The display is an image representation of the Nexrad radar reflectivity overlayed with cloud tops and centroid movement. The Nexrad Radar Coded Message (RCM) product originates as an automated text message generated at each NWS radar site and transmitted over the AFOS communications network. The RCM reflectivity data has spatial resolution of about 12 km and is updated every 30 minutes. The RCM was intended as a replacement for the Manually Digitized Radar (MDR) product which has been used for years as the input to the NWS Radar Summary graphic available over fax and other circuits. The raw RCM has considerable false echoes, so it is hourly by the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) before being formatted as an MDR in the autoROB product transmitted over AFOS. The autoROB is now used as the input for the NWS Radar Summary chart. The editing of the RCM at the AWC is an automated process that checks the RCM for meteorological validity when compared to current satellite images, synoptic conditions, neighboring radar sites, and lightning.

The displayed image is the edited reflectivity. The RCM includes the max top for each radar's area of coverage. The other tops shown on the display are derived from the satellite images at the centers of convective activity. Movements shown are the radar centroid movements as generated by the Nexrad processor.

The images are updated twice hourly and are posted at HH:15 and HH:45.


Chris Engleman
06-05-2008, 02:10 AM
Here is a interesting article I found: