A Historical Geospatial Analysis of Severe Weather Events in Oklahoma State Parks: A Park Management Perspective


  • I-Chun (Nicky) Wu School of Kinesiology and Recreation Illinois State University
  • Adam J. Mathews Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism Western Michigan University
  • Hung-Ling (Stella) Liu Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences South Dakota State university
  • Nicholas Rose North Idaho College




Hazard mitigation, disaster and crisis management, Oklahoma state parks, geographic information system (GIS), Kernel Density Estimation (KDE)


The State of Oklahoma, located in the heart of Tornado Alley, frequently experiences severe weather events such as tornadoes, hail, and damaging wind. Weather events such as these inflict injury and, in some cases, death on park visitors as well as damage park infrastructure, amenities, and other natural resources. Park and recreation professionals, especially those in severe weather-prone areas, must prepare for and respond to such events with the appropriate emergency operations and hazard mitigation procedures (National Park Service, 2006; Whitworth & May, 2006). Following the tourism disaster and crisis management frameworks (Faulkner, 2001; Ritchie, 2008), this study focuses on risk analysis and hazard mitigation strategies and implementations applicable to parks and recreation areas. Additionally, this study seeks to remedy the lack of longitudinal historical research by employing geographic information system (GIS)-based approaches to investigate the spatial interaction between severe weather events and state parks. Using geospatial data of tornado, hail, wind, and lightning events from 1950 to 2015, provided by NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, we quantitatively evaluate the potential risk of severe weather on Oklahoma State Parks. GIS-based kernel density estimation was utilized to create interpolated raster surfaces representing accumulated risk (1950-2015) for each type of severe weather event (similar to Dixon et al., 2011). Results show that tornadoes had the most widespread impact on parks in central to north-central regions of Oklahoma. Conversely, the risk posed by hail is more prevalent in parks located in western Oklahoma while parks in northeastern Oklahoma are most affected by severe winds. Parks located in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma have higher chance of lightning strikes. By combining all types of severe weather as a composite dataset, a ‘severe weather risk’ score was assigned to each state park. Natural hazard mitigation strategies and recommendations include allocate operation and maintenance appropriation to severe weather-prone state parks, strengthen emergency response procedure and training programs, and raise natural hazard awareness through communication and education programs. Although this study emphasizes a state-level administration, these methods are transferable to other scales (i.e., national, local) depending on data availability. Conceptual contributions to the tourism disaster and crisis management framework are also discussed.Subscribe to JPRA