Snow and slush cover campus roads by the A, B, and C dorms the first weekend of spring to the extent that Bacone pushed back classes to 12 p.m. on March 22. Bacone officials are preparing the campus for Oklahomaʼs spring storm season. (Bacone photo by Mark Benson)
Muskogee’s last day of winter was 71 degrees March 19, while the first day of spring had a high of 45, along with six inches of snow.
Some areas got up to 12 inches commemorating March 20’s opening of spring.
Welcome to Oklahoma weather.
While spring offers warmer days, it is also includes wind storms, hail, and kicks off “tornado season.”
Tornado alley includes the region of states between Texas north to Nebraska.
According to http://www.weather.com, tornadoes are most common from April through July, with May and June being “peak months.”
As a New Jersey native, he knows they might not understand the weather’s severity.
“When you think about tornadoes you usually think of things like the movie ‘Twister’,” he said. “It’s suddenly right on top of you and it’s a very devastating storm. It is not like that in real life. We have more warning, and time to prepare.”
With nine years emergency management experience, Duncan and Bacone are preparing for severe weather by training staff and faculty in tornado safety procedures.
“They will have the ability to help evacuate students,” he said. “They will be able to show the students where to go.”
Duncan said in severe weather students and faculty will either evacuate or “do something called sheltering in place.”
“Sheltering in place is kind of like a lock down,” he added, “where we try to keep everybody in a safe designated area that is as storm resistant as you can get.”
The deputy sheriff said Bacone has signs to direct people where to go during severe weather.
“They are the combination signs that you may have seen in some of the dorms,” he said, “where it will have the ‘In Case of Severe Weather’, ‘In Case of Fire’, and ‘In case of EMS’. It will have each of those hazards posted.”
Duncan encourages students to speak with residence life staff over concerns about weather safety, and according to Duncan, “get familiar with the buildings and where you’re suppose to go in a severe weather emergency.”
Freshman Devon Fuller wants to learn any safety measure Bacone sees fit.
“I have been close to so many [tornadoes],” he added, “but I still take safety precautions just in case.”
The Oklahoma City native remembers the 1996 tornado that tore through the city.
Though Fuller was young he said, “I saw and remember a bunch of destruction.”
Physical education major Aron McCoy also thinks of “Twister” when he hears the word tornado.
Unlike Fuller, who seems to not fret the possibility of a tornado, McCoy is not as composed.
“I’m nervous about them,” he added, “because you never know what is going to happen.”
Currently, Bacone warns students and faculty of any change in severe weather through campus contact.
“We’ll send out a campus wide e-mail to everybody’s e-mail address,” Duncan said, “and on the Bacone College web site, there will be a big red bar across the bottom of every page.”
According to Duncan, who is also an adjunct instructor of adult education, business, and criminal justice, the college will take precaution for severe storms if Muskogee County is under watch.
Faculty and staff should know that Bacone will release warnings before city sirens sound, he added.
“As soon as it [tornado] touches around us, or near us, they will send out the e-mail saying ‘Just be advised there is a watch’,” said Duncan.
He said the biggest thing is to not panic, “and that will give students time to make important decisions about their safety.”
Montouya Moore, Wagoner junior, has seen a few tornadoes, and is frightened by them.
“People from Florida might not be fazed because they have hurricanes,” said the general education major, “but students who don’t know about bad weather might flip out.”
She agrees that students should remain calm, focus in order to guard their safety, and also look for early warnings.
According to Duncan, a lot of Bacone’s safety is based on the development of weather technology development getting better.
“As we go through this, we learn that early warning is the best warning,” he said. “It doesn’t do as much good for us to tell a student that a storm is eminent, than it does to say be aware that we have a storm system moving in.”