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The Dangers of Stationary Fronts

Heavy rains frequently come in the winter and they can pose unique hazards.

A+crooked+mail+box+and+flooded+houses+remain+in+Kingfisher+from+Tropical+Storm+Erin+in+2007.
A crooked mail box and flooded houses remain in Kingfisher from Tropical Storm Erin in 2007.

A crooked mail box and flooded houses remain in Kingfisher from Tropical Storm Erin in 2007.

Marvin Nauman/FEMA

Marvin Nauman/FEMA

A crooked mail box and flooded houses remain in Kingfisher from Tropical Storm Erin in 2007.

Braxton Banks, Reporter

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Oklahoma’s many weather systems produce heavy rains in the winter and spring, deadly tornadoes, damaging thunderstorms and crippling ice storms – often times many in the same year. They all begin with what are called fronts, which can bring catastrophe if they stall for days upon end.

Marvin Nauman/FEMA
Main Street of flooded Kingfisher during 2007 rescue operations that affected 153 people during Tropical Storm Erin.

A front is a boundary between two masses of warm and cool air. There are multiple types of weather fronts, but the cold front is usually the kind that creates storms.

Any fronts that stall, or formed when they are stalled, are called stationary fronts. Fronts stall when warm air and cold air meet and neither has the force to move each other. Stationary fronts are known for being clouds or fog for days, even bringing rain or snow to an area that the front is stalled over.

“A stationary front does not have warm air or cool air flowing into it like a warm or cold front would,” says Ed Calianese of the National Weather Service office in Tulsa

In largely flat Oklahoma, the most common, costly result of a stationary front is flooding. This usually happens when there is lots of moisture associated with the front. December 2015 provides great examples of would happen to cities like Oklahoma City and Tulsa when significant amounts of rainfall for days on end. As much as 13-15 inches of rain fell between December 26 and 29 that year. Most areas received anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of rain.

Widespread flooding occurred when creeks and rivers overflowed their banks.

Another threat that fronts can bring are tornadoes, which Oklahomans know all too well.

Downtown Tulsa has never suffered a blow from a tornado, but Calianese says it’s only a “matter of time” before downtown Tulsa is hit because of probabilities and statistics. Downtown Tulsa has had a few close calls, the most recent being in August, when an EF2 tornado tore it’s way through parts of Midtown before lifting and touching back down in Broken Arrow.

Tornadoes

can strike pretty much anywhere in Oklahoma, even in Bixby.

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The Dangers of Stationary Fronts