Visualizing 30 Years of Oklahoma Tornados

Data

Visualizing 30 Years of Oklahoma Tornados

When you think of Oklahoma, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of cowboys, farming, Native American culture or the oil and gas industry. All of those are common answers, but there’s something associated with Oklahoma’s identity more than anything else: tornados.

This weather phenomenon definitely isn’t unique to Oklahoma (just ask our neighbors), but it’s hard to deny Oklahoma’s reputation as a global hotbed for tornadic activity. This reputation has spawned interesting perceptions (and misconceptions) from those outside the Midwest. In fact, as I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve heard some pretty comical questions when it comes to tornados. Here are a few gems:

“How do you survive with all the tornados in Oklahoma?”

“How’d you survive that big one that hit that elementary school?”

“How does your teepee survive?”

First let me say that in my 30+ years in Oklahoma, I’ve only seen two tornados in person, and those were several miles off in the distance. The actual threat of a tornado striking your home is minimal since the paths of most tornados are typically very small. The vast majority of tornados also occur in rural areas, thus further decreasing the chances of most folks encountering them. Depending on where you live in Oklahoma, the risk of a life-threatening, EF5-rated storm (the big ones) is even less likely.

So, to answer the first question, surviving with all the tornados in Oklahoma is easy because I rarely encounter them. To answer the second question, I was about 120 miles away from that school, so that particular tornado didn’t affect me. As for the third question, I won’t even justify that with an answer. 😉

Let’s Look at the Data

Since I’ve lived here the majority of my life and I make a living in data, I thought a data visualization about the subject would be interesting to tackle once this year’s peak storm season came to a close. A data viz might also help in illustrating the frequency and impact of tornados across Oklahoma a little better than a static image or raw data. So, I naturally created a viz using Tableau. The viz below shows the past 30 years of tornado data collected by the National Weather Service. There are three parts:

  1. Comprehensive View
  2. F-Scale Breakdown
  3. My Home County (really the same as the #1 but with Tulsa County highlighted for fun)

You can navigate between these parts by clicking on the blue story points at the of the viz. Be sure to click around the viz for a variety of filtering options. Finally, if you ever find yourself threatened by a tornado, don’t forget your tornado precautions. Enjoy!

NOTE: If you notice that a tornado is missing for a county along with associated fatalities or injuries, try checking the adjacent counties to see if they wound up there. Due to the nature of the data source, Tableau attributed many tornados to only one county even though those tornados are listed as passing through multiple counties in the original data source. I went ahead resolved this for all of the EF5s, but I left anything classified below that category alone as that would’ve require considerable manual work.

More About the Author

Dustin Wyers

Analytics Consultant / Assist Lead - East
Advance with Assist: Mass Parameter Replacement Question: In my workbook, I’ve created my own problem. I have three parameters that are identical. I’d like to only need to update one, ...
Advance with Assist: Function Compatibility Question: I’m trying to remove the decimal from my report, but I’m getting unexpected results. With FLOOR or ROUND on my calculation, I ...

See more from this author →

Subscribe to our newsletter

  • I understand that InterWorks will use the data provided for the purpose of communication and the administration my request. InterWorks will never disclose or sell any personal data except where required to do so by law. Finally, I understand that future communications related topics and events may be sent from InterWorks, but I can opt-out at any time.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

InterWorks uses cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Review Policy OK