When an F5 tornado hit Moore on May 3, 1999, it did $800 million in estimated damage to that community’s neighborhoods. Today, the city is one of Oklahoma’s fastest-growing. Recently, Census figures ranked Moore among the top 100 cities in the country based on its growth. The community added 1,234 people from 2010 to 2011 (2.2. percent growth). Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs have all enjoyed growth in recent years. The Census found that Oklahoma City’s population increased by 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, while Mustang and Yukon experienced population growth greater than 3 percent. Yet Moore stands out because of its not-so-distant tragic past. Recalling the horror of 1999 and the broad path of rubble the tornado made of buildings and people’s lives, the growth of Moore has been a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the perseverance of Oklahomans.
According to Bloomberg News, this year’s Oklahoma wheat yields will range as high as 60 bushels an acre, and the state’s crop was 73 percent harvested as of June 3. Oklahoma is typically the second-biggest U.S. winter-wheat producer, and our production may near 154.8 million bushels, the highest in four years. But achieving those numbers was no sure thing due to potential federal regulations. Last year, proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations would have essentially made dust illegal during harvest, leaving farmers worried that they had to achieve the impossible or face fines. Then federal Labor Department officials proposed regulations banning teenagers from taking traditional jobs on farms, including harvest work. Fortunately, regulators backed down after public outcry. This year’s early wheat harvest may have been made possible by weather, but it also owes a lot to the failure of those regulations.
Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Coverage of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals has included analysis not only of the dueling teams but their respective cities, with commentators drawing comparisons between San Antonio’s Riverwalk and Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Canal. Another topographical similarity comes from the new park system rankings by the Trust for Public Land. Of the 40 biggest cities, Oklahoma City ranked 33rd and San Antonio 35th. Since one of the criteria is the amount of park space relative to a city’s size, a more spread out city like ours is at a disadvantage compared with the more densely populated coastal cities such as Eastern Conference finalist Boston, tied for third in the ParkScore Rankings. But with recent investments in parks and the upcoming MAPS 3 Core to Shore park, our future in coming years looks bright on the court and in the park.
Above: Will Rogers Gardens in northwest Oklahoma City is an older city park with new additions. Ongoing efforts to improve the city’s green spaces, and add new parks, could help the city move higher in rankings of big-city park systems in the U.S. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
If the weather this week didn’t offer enough proof, an online hazard mapping firm tells us that Oklahoma is a top destination for hail. Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Midwest City landed in the list of top 10 hail-prone metro areas. Colorado also contributed three cities, and Kansas and Texas had two each. While this compilation by Boston-based CDS Business Mapping, LLC., first reported last fall, is an unfortunate reminder of a natural phenomenon, it beckons us to be prepared and alert. Severe and strange weather has become all too familiar in this Tornado Alley state, but our communities continue to persevere, with Rumble of the Oklahoma City Thunder as an appropriate mascot.
Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman Archives
What are global warming proponents going to do with this? It turns out dinosaurs may have produced, ahem, methane in greater quantities than all modern sources combined and literally warmed the earth, according to Current Biology. At the same time other researchers have found wind farms raise nearby overnight temperatures by about 0.72 degree Celsius — a level nearly equal to total average global warming since the end of the Little Ice Age. So green energy may be bad for the environment, and the automobile-free Jurassic Age was a near cataclysm thanks to dinosaurs’ poor dietary habits. Somewhere a hippie is really freaking out right now. Can’t we just acknowledge naturally occurring, dramatic environmental shifts have occurred for centuries? Instead of blaming your neighbor’s F-150 for the weather, credit Mother Nature for being one really tough customer.
The age-old problem of families buying a cute puppy only to find the full-grown version unmanageable, and then dumping him in the country, is apparently an issue with horses as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that horse “dumpouts” in rural areas have surged due to the tough economy. As a result, “wild” herds are growing unmanageable, leading to calls for reviving horse slaughter plants in several states, including Oklahoma. Animal rights activists are appalled, but those dealing with the animals say there simply aren’t enough people able to take in abandoned horses, which often struggle to survive in a wild herd. While no one likes the idea of killing a horse in a slaughterhouse, that’s a far better fate than slow starvation or the painful death that occurs when a horse is struck by a car — another increasing problem thanks to the dumpout trend.
Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman Archives
Stories about the adverse environmental impact of wind energy are made in media heaven. What could be more toothsome than reports tying wind farms to bird deaths, scenery stealing and disturbance of animal habitat? Aren’t these things in the exclusive realm of oil, gas and coal? Apparently not. The latest news, from an academic journal called Nature Climate Change, says the massive windmills contribute to global warming by heating up the earth around the base of the 250-ft. towers. This is particularly true at night. Since many large wind farms are in the drier western states, this should be of concern, right? No worries. Parking lots, roofs and highways have an impact on local area heating. Many activities of daily human living do. Whatever adverse impact wind farms have in the small area around them is not that significant and is certainly offset by the benefits of wind energy. In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free range.
Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman Archives
We can thank the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up the air by putting so much pressure on utilities to stop making power with coal that coal-fired plants are being “voluntarily” shuttered. Oh, you can also thank them for the higher bills coming your way due to the lack of diversity in the choice of fuels to make electricity. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, which serves the Tulsa area, is caving on an EPA crackdown on coal-caused emissions. OG&E, which serves Oklahoma City, remains committed to fighting an EPA mandate related to coal plants. Electric bills are going up no matter how this plays out, but does it make sense to shut out an abundant, domestic source of energy? Price aside, diversity seems prudent in this area. Still, Oklahoma may have a net gain from current trends: It has a lot more natural gas than it does coal.
Above: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma’s Northeastern Station coal-fired power plant in Oologah. Photo provided by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma
Newt Gingrich encountered an unlikely opponent on the presidential campaign trail in St. Louis last week. Nipped by a Magellanic penguin during a behind-the-scenes zoo tour, Gingrich’s finger required a small bandage. In other penguin news, a recent emperor penguin census, conducted via satellite, found double the expected number of the majestic birds. “We know that this species is threatened by climate change,” said lead author Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey. “This gives us an accurate method of checking the numbers, year on year, to see if the models that predict that the population is going to decrease are actually true.” With a previous estimate of 300,000 emperor penguins in the world, and a new count of 595,000, climate change appears not to be too serious a predator so far. Perhaps the next erstwhile presidential candidate deserving of a penguin’s wrath is Al Gore.
A flock of penguins in Antarctica (AP Photo/Japan Pool)