Do You Believe The Mountains Protect Lawton From Bad Weather?
As we roll into a second straight week of severe weather chances, here's a common Lawton talking point worth exploring...
Do the Wichita Mountains shelter and protect Lawton from seriously bad weather?
I can't tell you how many times I've heard something along the lines of "The mountains prevent tornadoes from hitting Lawton."
I'll be honest with you, while I'm heavily skeptical about such a statement, it's not the craziest thing I've ever heard.
I admit, I'm a bit of a weather nerd. I want to say I took an interest to it when Twister was released to theaters, and it really dug in when I first came to Lawton and the boss said to go chase storms.
Oddly enough, there's a major river that borders my hometown, and when the topic of tornadoes pops into a discussion up there, I've heard numerous people say "Well, the river prevents tornadoes from hitting town."
So... is it an old wives' tale or just an odd meteorological occurrence?
While I want to be clear that I'm no weather expert, I'd assume it's a tall tale that somehow manages to come true, but the scientific record may give this myth quite a bite.
Every scientific weather paper on the subject of mountains and weather includes one discerning peer-reviewed fact... Mountain ranges to have an effect on the weather.
In fact, mountain ranges are one of the reasons that the plains states are so volatile. Dry cold air comes sweeping off the high elevations of the extended Rocky Mountains, and when it hits the warm, humid air traveling into the plains from the Gulf of Mexico, atmospheric fireworks happen.
That's not to say without the mountains we'd all have great weather, but it'd be fair to say the severe weather would just probably happen somewhere else in the country.
If you think tornadoes don't happen in the mountains, I've heard that before, it's just not true. When conditions are ideal, twisters pop down anywhere regardless of topography. There are several tornadoes observed in our short history of touchdowns in the mountainous regions of America.
There's one on TikTok that happened 10,000 feet up a mountain in Montana until that cold air stabilized the storm.
Our Wichita's aren't that tall, and if your memory is good enough, there have been several tornadic events through the mountains in just the past few years.
So, do the mountains protect Lawton from tornadoes? Most likely, no.
Lawton's had a few come sweeping through in our history, just not in the last couple of decades.
The mountains haven't grown taller to have more influence on the weather or anything, we've just been incredibly lucky. The fact that we're such a small dot on the map and surrounded by rural farmland makes the impact of those events just so small to us within city limits.
Unfortunately, those who do find themselves in the path of a storm aren't so lucky.
Was it four or five years ago that we had a rash of tornadoes between Lawton and the Southern border? Tipton, Geronimo, Devol, Cookietown, Temple, and probably a few more communities I've forgotten...
Other places like Apache, Fletcher, Cyril and Elgin all took on incredible winds and enormous hail storms in recent memory too. Those are storms that had to traverse the mountains to drop their naturally destructive payloads.
So, do the mountains prevent severe weather? Probably not... but it would make a great topic for social media to argue about instead of politics.