When it comes to violent tornadoes, the city of Moore, OK is all too familiar with what these forces of nature are capable of. Before Monday, May 20, 2013, the city had been hit by three other devastating twisters. An EF-4, just three years ago on May 10, 2010…an EF-4 twister on May 8, 2003…then finally the last EF-5 tornado back on May 3, 1999. Now we can add this latest EF-5 tornado to the list. The 1999 tornado was catastrophic. The highest wind speed ever was recorded by a Doppler Radar on wheels. The winds topped out at 302 mph. Over 40 people were killed and hundreds were injured. Over a billion dollars of damage was done.
It’s very eerie when you look at the two supercell thunderstorms that dropped these massive tornadoes. Here’s a side by side look below of two tornadoes. The 2013 tornado is on the left while the 1999 twister is on the right. These are textbook examples of a supercell thunderstorm. You can see the hook on the southwest side, and in the middle of the hook, is a ball of reflectivity. This is known as a debris ball. The radar is actually seeing the debris that the tornado is picking up. You see something like this you know that there’s a big and powerful tornado there.
A National Weather Service damage survey deemed the May 20, 2013 Newcastle-Moore tornado a rare EF-5 with a maximum width of 1.3 miles and path of 17 miles. It was on the ground for an impressive 50 minutes. Below is a look at the preliminary damage path. EF-5 damage was found at Briarwood Elementary with max winds estimated at 200-210 mph. These winds are capable of leaving nothing behind but the concrete slab of homes and buildings. We saw plenty of that with this event.
The Newcastle-Moore tornado is only the 59th EF-5/F-5 tornado since record keeping began in 1950. Above you can see where all the different EF-5/F-5 tornadoes have struck. There have been three in Wisconsin…one in Menomonie, one in Barneveld, and one in Oakfield.
Below is a radar animation of the supercell that dropped this destructive tornado. You’ll notice how the hook becomes far better organized as it approaches Moore. You can clearly see the spin or rotation in the storm. We were watching in the weather lab on Monday and seeing something like this just gave me chills. Eventually a debris ball forms. We knew something really bad was under there.
Here’s a video taken of the tornado as it touched down about 4.4 miles west of Newcastle. As you see by the damage path that I showed farther up, the tornado generally moves northeast. It quickly strengthens and enlarges, which you can really see by this video. After a couple minutes, you can just tell that this is going to be a violent tornado.
Then the tornado makes it into the city of Moore. Here’s another video from Basehunters Chasing. By this point the tornado is massive. You can hear the immense roar from the tornado and the cloud of debris swirling around. It’s an unreal sight. Apparently, 90 miles away in Tulsa, OK, debris was falling from the sky. Even 250 miles away in Branson, MO there was debris from the tornado falling to the ground. Just amazing!
Here’s a sped up time-lapse of the EF-5 tornado from WMCT-TV. About half way through, the tornado becomes a bit rain wrapped making it hard to see. Basically that just means rain is falling around the tornado and clouds the view. That’s when tornadoes can be most dangerous because you can’t see it coming. All you see is a big wall of black.
The tornado left behind devastating damage and several casualties. A total of 24 people lost their lives with several of those being children. There were seven children who died at an area elementary school that was hit hard by the tornado. Above was a flyover image taken by a local meteorologist there who was taking a helicopter ride to view the damage. You can clearly see the damage path the tornado took right up the middle of the photo. Below is a slideshow of images taken in the aftermath of the twister.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department said the preliminary estimate of the damage caused by this tornado is an incredible $2 billion. This could make the Newcastle-Moore tornado one of the most expensive in U.S. history.
This was a tough day at work. We watched along with you the tornado coverage and aftermath. It’s a scary event. We’re fascinated by severe weather, sure, but Monday was a big reminder of how dangerous severe weather can be. It also is a reminder for me of how much responsibility comes with the job. Yes, I give a 7 day forecast to help you plan your week and your day. But when severe weather rolls around, it’s all about warning people and keeping people safe. I’ve seen tornado damage before here in Western Wisconsin. Nothing like what’s happened in Oklahoma but still it was very intense to see the damage these things can do and how they impact people. Thanks for watching and hopefully this event is a reminder to head the warnings and have a plan of action. Tornadoes can happen anywhere. I hope I never have to see something like what happened down in Oklahoma.