This Day in History: March 25, 1948 – First Official Tornado Forecast in Recorded History

By: Sean Sporman
By: Sean Sporman

Before the advent of weather satellites and advanced computer models, forecasters were able to predict a tornado in Oklahoma on this day in history in 1948.

Before 1948, the precursor to the National Weather Service called the Weather Bureau, actually had a policy against using the word tornadoes in their forecast out of fear of panicking the public and causing a lax attitude should the warning be false.

On March 20th, 1948, a tornado tore through Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma City. There were no deaths, but the storm caused the modern equivalent of nearly $100 million in damage to structures and aircraft.

This prompted researchers to begin looking into the conditions that were favorable for tornado development, at least as they were known at the time.

On March 25th, conditions were extremely similar to how they were when the March 20th tornado struck. A line of storms and clouds prompted the forecasters at Tinker Air Force Base to issue the first ever tornado forecast.

The second tornado caused another round of damage, but thanks to the warning, the damage amount was considerably less and there were no injuries.

Since then, tornado forecasting in the forms of watches and warnings, and later risk zones from the Storm Prediction Center, along with other methods have been crucial in saving many lives, especially when combined with this information relayed and enhanced through local television meteorologists.

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