Microburst Mauls Midtown

By Lisa Stringer, Tulsa Today    
Wednesday, 07 June 2006
Clean up is continuing in mid-town Tulsa from a Tuesday morning storm which left thousands without electricity and caused major damage to homes and trees.

Officials say the brief – but destructive – storm was a “microburst,” a localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight-line winds which are similar to but distinguishable from tornadoes. A microburst is less than 2.5 miles and initially develops as the downdraft begins its descent from the cloud base. The downdraft accelerates and, within minutes, reaches the ground. The wind "curls" as the cold air of the microburst moves away from the point of impact with the ground.

The majority of the storm’s damage was focused between 11th and 31st Streets, and between Lewis Avenue and Sheridan Road, though other parts of the city were also affected. Officials say winds reached an estimated 85 mph in some areas. A number of intersections had lights out, snarling traffic and hampering emergency vehicles answering the many calls for assistance.

About 15,000 homes were damaged, city officials estimated. As many as 20,000 customers lost power, and spokesmen for the electric company say it may take a day or two to restore power to all those affected.

The Harvard Avenue Baptist Church, 3235 E. 17th Street, was one of the worst of the storm’s casualties. A portion of its roof was torn off and the church sustained major water damage from the heavy rain. The Ferris wheel at Bell’s Amusement Park was also toppled, and several other rides were damaged.

A number of minor injuries were reported as being caused by the storm. One couple was injured when a tree fell on their home at 14th Streetand Richmond Avenue. Another man was nearly killed in his car by a falling power pole.

Downed power lines are a continuing hazard until the cleanup from the storm is complete. AEP says residents should avoid those power lines and consider any line downed as an active and dangerous hazard.

The city began its clean-up efforts began by clearing roadways, according to Fire Captain Larry Bowles. Once the major thoroughfares, including Harvard Avenue, are cleared, the city will begin removing the debris.

The City of Tulsa also established a hotline to provide information to those affected by the storm and answer questions about food safety, oxygen supplies for those with breathing problems, and other health-related issues. The hotline number is 596-7822.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 June 2006 )