SALLISAW — It's not spring, but October still brings tornadoes to Oklahoma.
From 1950-2017, Oklahoma had 139 tornadoes in October — the fifth-most of any month behind March, April, May and June, according to the National Weather Service. And while tornadoes in October have not touched down in Sequoyah or LeFlore counties, one official says weather in the past week showed the possible beginnings of a tornado and caused damage in the area.
"October is kind of another period where we get storms, and we get funnel clouds and tornadoes and all that," said Steve Rutherford, Sequoyah County emergency management director. "It’s something we’re going to have to watch, because a lot of people don't understand that."
Similar conditions to those in the spring and early summer — warm, humid air mixing with cold air — form tornadoes during October in Oklahoma, said Pete Snyder, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Tulsa. Snyder said the types of tornadoes formed in October do not typically reach the severity of those formed in the spring and summer months.
Though Oklahoma averages two tornadoes per year in October, it had 27 in October 1998 — its fourth-highest total for any single month. And like its total since 1950, the state's monthly average for tornadoes in October is its fifth-highest for the year, according to Weather Service records.
"It’s kind of a secondary severe weather season," Snyder said.
While Weather Service officials thus far in October have not issued tornado warnings for LeFlore or Sequoyah counties, Sequoyah County officials this past week have been on alert amid severe weather, including during a storm on Tuesday that caused damage in the county, Rutherford said.
"There was not even a severe thunderstorm warning, but just a, 'be aware, the storm is coming in,'" he said.
This storm, Rutherford said, blew away two barns around 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Sallisaw area. National Weather Service officials confirmed the storm was not a tornado, but told Rutherford it could have been the beginnings of a tornado, he said.
"I really think it was, because what I was getting from the people out there is, they were saying, 'I saw a funnel cloud,'" Rutherford said of the storm. "Four different people from four different places saw it, including one of them that had damage."
The weather arrived this week in eastern Oklahoma after an uneventful spring and summer. Sequoyah and LeFlore counties have not had any tornadoes despite the fact that the storm system on April 13 that later produced an EF-2 tornado in the Mountainburg area moved through the area.
Rutherford said he will be paying attention to storms through the rest of October.
"You just have to play it by ear like you do the rest of the year — look at the storms as they build," he said. "I’m in communication every day with the Weather Service."