National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Oklahoma Tornado Tracks for the April 26, 1991 Great Plains Tornado Outbreak The April 26, 1991 Red Rock Tornado - Photo courtesy of Doug Speheger



The mid to late 1980s were a relatively calm era in Oklahoma and north Texas tornado history, at least as far as the lack of violent tornadoes (tornadoes classified as F4 or F5 on the Fujita Scale). After April 29, 1984 when a violent tornado struck Mannford (near Lake Keystone), there were no violent tornadoes in the state for almost 7 years. This is the longest period of time that the state has gone without a violent tornado since tornado data began to be regularly compiled in 1950, and likely dating back to statehood.

Within the Oklahoma and north Texas counties currently served by the NWS Norman, there were no violent tornadoes for almost 10 years after the Binger tornado of May 22, 1981. Furthermore, no violent tornadoes had occurred within the entire state of Oklahoma since 1984. Unfortunately, those streaks ended on April 26, 1991.

The day started ominously as storms formed across central and western Oklahoma in the early morning hours and moved northeast. A tornado struck the town of Tonkawa in northern Oklahoma about an hour after sunrise. These early storms moved northeast into Kansas and weakened in the late morning hours, but a dry line remained across central Kansas into central Oklahoma.

Storms redeveloped in the afternoon along the dry line and an outbreak of tornadoes across much of the central and southern plains ensued. Before the event had concluded, over 50 tornadoes had touched down in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, including five violent tornadoes that occurred in southern Kansas and Oklahoma. The deadliest tornado occurred in the Wichita, Kansas area when an F5 tornado moved through the southern and eastern portions of the Wichita metropolitan area, including McConnell Air Force Base and the town of Andover.

Four other tornadoes received F4 ratings in this outbreak, with three of these violent twisters occurring in Oklahoma.One of these overturned several cars on the Cimarron Turnpike before the striking the towns of Westport and Skiatook. This tornado killed one person and injured another 24. A second F4 tornado injured 22 when it struck Oologah, Oklahoma to the northeast of Tulsa. The other violent tornado was the only one to strike within the NWS Norman area of responsibility, initially touching down east of Enid, about 2.5 miles east of Garber, and it is this tornado that became known as the "Red Rock" tornado. It touched down at 6:30 pm, and moved northeast about 66 miles over the next hour and a half, making this one of the longest tornado paths documented in Oklahoma.

Another 6 tornadoes also occurred in north central and northeastern Oklahoma during the late afternoon and evening of April 26, 1991. The nine tornado tracks in Oklahoma can be viewed in the map shown below, and more information can be viewed in the tornado table for the event. Of the 9 tornadoes to occur in Oklahoma, 4 of these (Tornadoes A1, A2, A3 & B1) occurred in the NWS Norman forecast area.