Wyoming not exactly tornado country, but we do get ‘em

Merna tornado (Randy Foster)

WYOMING – A tornado will hit Wyoming this year, this month, in fact. Virtually, anyway. That, we already know.

The National Weather Service and FEMA will be participating with various emergency management agencies around the state to encourage residents, businesses, schools, and media to use the upcoming Tornado Drill on April 12 as a practice run.

Spring months in Wyoming are when the state sees some of its most severe and unpredictable weather. Tornadoes can and do occur in the high plains state. On average, 10 tornados touch down somewhere in the Cowboy State every year.

Twister history

According to the Tornado Project, southeast Wyoming gets most of the funnel action, historically, earning it the nickname “tornado alley.” Noting each such storm over a 62-year period between 1950 and 2012, the Vermont-based company reports Laramie has experienced the most tornadoes during that timeframe with 106 total events. Campbell (84 recorded tornadoes) and Goshen (72) were the next likeliest counties in Wyoming to get hit with twisters over that time span.

Some of the deadliest and most damaging tornadoes to hit Wyoming include the F3 rated twister that sat on the ground for an astonishing 45 minutes in Cheyenne on July 16, 1979. Long, in duration, by any standards. It killed 1, injured 40, and caused $25 million in damage.

Funnel west of Cheyenne on June 25, 2014 (NWS)

More recently, an F2 blasted Wright, Wyo., on August 12, 2005, killing 2 and injuring 13 as it destroyed 40-50 mobile homes.

The western half of the state is not immune to tornadoes, either. In fact, the strongest ever recorded hit Teton County on July 21, 1987. The Yellowstone Tornado was Wyoming’s only Fujita scale F4 in recorded history. It reportedly was so powerful it debarked trees as it flattened them.

And just last summer, Sublette County dealt with an EF-1 tornado near Merna. Estimated winds of 100 to 110 miles per hour hit the area on September 4, 2016, traveling 2.45 miles on the ground and cutting a 300 yard swath at its widest point.

Tornado test

“Folks need to do all that they can ahead of time to ensure they have the plans and the tools to keep both themselves and their families safe should severe weather strike,” said Chad Hahn, meteorologist at the Cheyenne NWS Office. “This includes not only a planned spot of where to go at home, school or work, but also knowing where to get critical weather warning information when seconds count.”

In order to ensure statewide emergency communications and alerting capabilities are functioning properly, the NWS will issue a test Tornado Warning for the entire state on Wednesday, April 12, at 10:30 a.m. Broadcasters and public safety alerting points across Wyoming will be participating in the test. Schools, healthcare and continuing-care facilities, and other large venues are encouraged to use the drill to test internal emergency procedures.

Enhanced Fujita scale. (NWS)