May 20 is the 3rd Anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that crunched through Moore, OK in 2013. This mile-wide mammoth laid waste to or severely damaged more than 10,000 structures, killing 24, and injuring several hundred. Given the intensity of the tornado and the densely populated area, it’s amazing more people weren’t killed by this menace.
It first touched down at 2:56 p.m. near Newcastle, and moved ENE following a path resembling the track of the deadly May 3, 1999 EF-5 that also ravaged Moore, in fact the two paths crossed at two points:
Within four minutes the 2013 tornado had grown into a violent EF-3 several hundred yards wide with winds in excess of 150 mph. It continued to grow to EF-5 intensity (more than 200 mph) just a few minutes later. Here’s the classic “hook” echo as seen from the Twin Lakes, OK National Weather Service Doppler radar at 3:06 p.m.:
The areas receiving the EF-5 winds made up less than one percent of the total area affected by the tornado. There was a much larger swath of EF-3/EF-4 damage which was also catastrophic. Seven of nine children killed in the twister were at Plaza Towers Elementary school, which took EF-4 (166 to 200 mph) damage.
The path length was 14 miles, it was on the ground for 40 horrific minutes, and it left $2 billion in damage. This puts it in the Top 5 most destructive in terms of dollar damages.
The Joplin, Missouri tornado of May 2011 holds the 1st place spot with $2.9B in losses. That tornado also killed 158 people, the 7th deadliest in U.S. history.
It’s important to note that while the Moore tornado was an EF-5, the percentage of the tornado-ravaged area that experienced those winds was only a fraction of the total area affected.
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