Oklahoma tornado officially an EF5 – wind speeds still less than 1999 Moore tornado

The map below shows ‘Tornado Tracks Streak Across Oklahoma’ as measured by doppler radar.

The rotation of tornadoes creates a distinctive signature in radar data, and can be used to estimate the track that the system takes over land. This image shows the rotational velocity of the systems that passed over Oklahoma on the afternoon of May 20, 2013. A single cohesive structure can be seen to cut across seven counties, with Moore directly in the middle.

The rotational velocity data, being run experimentally by the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, is helping to identify potential tornado structures and increase lead-time for severe weather warnings.

1352v1_20130521-Moore_Tornado-Rotation[1]

Here is an excerpt from the public information statement just released by NWS where they designate EF5 from damage surveys. 

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DISPATCHED FOUR DAMAGE SURVEY TEAMS TO
THE PATH OF THE NEWCASTLE/MOORE OK TORNADO. NEW STATEMENTS WILL BE
ISSUED THROUGHOUT THE DAY AS THESE TEAMS REPORT FINDINGS. THIS
INFORMATION REMAINS PRELIMINARY AND THE INFORMATION HERE COULD
CHANGE.

.NEWCASTLE/MOORE TORNADO

RATING:                  EF5
ESTIMATED PEAK WIND:     200-210 MPH
PATH LENGTH /STATUTE/:   17 MILES
PATH WIDTH /MAXIMUM/:    1.3 MILES
FATALITIES:              N/A
INJURIES:                N/A

START DATE:              MAY 20 2013
START TIME:              2:45 PM CDT
START LOCATION:          4.4 W  NEWCASTLE /GRADY COUNTY /OK
START LAT/LON:           35.2580 / -97.6775

END DATE:                MAY 20 2013
END TIME:                3:35 PM CDT
END LOCATION:            4.8 E OF MOORE OK /CLEVELAND COUNTY /OK
END LAT/LON:             35.3409 / -97.4007

SURVEY SUMMARY: EXPERTS SURVEYING IN MOORE HAVE DETERMINED DAMAGE IS
EF5 WITH MAXIMUM WINDS OVER 200 MPH. FOUR SURVEY TEAMS CONTINUE TO
INSPECT DAMAGE FROM THIS LONG TRACK TORNADO. INITIAL DAMAGE WAS
FOUND AROUND 4.4 MILES WEST OF NEWCASTLE...SOUTH OF TECUMSEH ROAD
ALSO KNOWN AS NW 16TH STREET AND EAST LAKE ROAD. THE TORNADO TRACKED
NE TO THE INTERSTATE 44 BRIDGE OVER THE CANADIAN RIVER AND THEN TOOK
A MORE EASTWARD TRACK THROUGH MOORE. TORNADO DAMAGE ABRUPTLY ENDS
0.3 MILES EAST OF AIR DEPOT ROAD AND N OF SE 134TH ST.INITIALLY PRODUCING EF0 AND EF1 DAMAGE THE STORM INTENSIFIED VERY
RAPIDLY IN 4 MILES OR AROUND 10 MINUTES PRODUCING EF4 DAMAGE BEFORE
REACHING INTERSTATE 44. NUMEROUS INDICATIONS OF EF4 DAMAGE WITH SOME
AREAS NOW DETERMINED AT EF5 DAMAGE...THE HIGHEST CATEGORY ON THE EF
SCALE...WITH OVER 200 MPH WINDS.

That 200-210 mph wind speed estimate is still far lower than the 1999 Oklahoma Bridge Creek-Moore tornado which had winds measured at 301mph:

...a Doppler On Wheels (DOW: Wurman et al. 1997, Wurman 2001) mobile Doppler weather radar detected winds of 301 mph (484 km/h), ±20 mph inside the tornado at a height of 32 m AGL (Wurman et al. 2007)

Here is what the storms looked like from satellite:

1350v1_20130521-Moore-GOES[1]

Note the collision of a strong cold and dry air mass with a warm moist air mass was the trigger for this event, "global warming" had nothing to do with it.

1349v1_20130520-AirTemp[1]

All imagery from NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab.

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31 Responses to Oklahoma tornado officially an EF5 – wind speeds still less than 1999 Moore tornado

  1. Brian D says:

    So many families suffering today, and for quite some time to come. So many youngsters perished. As a parent and grandparent, I couldn’t imagine what they must be going through.

  2. Janice Moore says:

    Mr. Phillips,

    I only had to read the link. I love dogs so much. I have tears in my eyes as I picture Ms. Garcia and her little friend. I’m going to pass on reading that one.

    Thanks for reminding us with bracing experiential evidence, that people matter most of all.

    Janice

  3. BarryW says:

    “global warming” had nothing to do with it.

    You know that won’t stop them from claiming it.

  4. Chris4692 says:

    Janice Moore says:
    May 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Mr. Phillips,

    I only had to read the link. I love dogs so much. I have tears in my eyes as I picture Ms. Garcia and her little friend. I’m going to pass on reading that one.

    Thanks for reminding us with bracing experiential evidence, that people matter most of all.

    Janice:
    Go ahead and watch, it’s a happy ending.

  5. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Janice Moore on May 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm:

    I only had to read the link. I love dogs so much. I have tears in my eyes as I picture Ms. Garcia and her little friend. I’m going to pass on reading that one.

    Must be the wrong link. Try this one.

    Yes, it is the same name, no tricks.

  6. The only proper thing to say at this time is, condolence to the victims and their family members. The news images were of shocking natural destruction and heartening response….with Americans of every variety as victims….Americans of every variety as rescuers.

    Grandstanding by political opportunists only demonstrates their demonic behavior, and just another reason to seriously consider who you place as your American leadership. Just like the shocking juxtaposition of the news images….i am heartened by the heroism of my fellow Americans….i am shocked by the ghoulish nature of our “leaders”….and awed by the powerful forces of Nature.

    Godspeed your recovery Oklahoma.

  7. psi says:

    [snip waaaaayyyyy off topic - mod]

  8. Greg Goodman says:

    …a Doppler On Wheels (DOW: Wurman et al. 1997, Wurman 2001) mobile Doppler weather radar detected winds of 301 mph (484 km/h), ±20 mph inside the tornado at a height of 32 m AGL (Wurman et al. 2007)

    It’s actually hard to imagine a volume of air moving that fast. Let alone seeing your house (or your horse) go up into it.

    That neighbourhood looks quite literally like some photo of Hiroshima.

  9. CodeTech says:

    One thing that got me… watching the news today Shep Smith was describing crowds of trucks sitting around, driven in from all over the area, loaded up with water, soda, food, and anything else they could think of just to give away, in hopes of helping people.
    Kinda chokes me up.

  10. Mike jarosz says:

    You have to be a pretty low life to try and make political points on a story like this. Shame on them all. Is there no decency left? Where’s the public outrage?

  11. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    And what will soon be showing up, to give aid and comfort to the shell-shocked and suffering, to show how much the government cares about those devastated by a massive tornado?

    FEMA trailers.

    Tornadoes. Trailer homes. What can go wrong?

  12. Janice Moore says:

    Oh, Chris (thank you!) and K. D., it’s hard to type when you can’t see the keyboard. Thank you so much for caring enough to tell me to watch that deeply moving video as the woman is REUNITED with her little Schnauzer.

    And, K. D., thanks esp. for your generosity — I’ll bet you winced as you pressed “Post Comment,” for you knew what I’d be sure to say….. [:)]

    PRAISE THE LORD!

    God allowed terribly sad things to happen yesterday, but God will bring good out of even the worst (Rom. 8:28).

    And, even in the midst of the suffering, God is there. And God cares. Even about an old woman’s dog. “Not one sparrow falls to the ground… .” God sees our problems, our pain, from our point of view. If it matters to you, it matters to God.

    God always answers prayer. God said, “Yes” to that woman. God also said, “No,” to others.

    One question we must not ask is, “Why?” We could never understand the answer, so we are not given it.

    **********************************
    As a mother whose college-age son died in a plane crash in the Andes in the 1970′s said, through her tears:
    “God is too kind to do anything cruel.
    God is too wise to make a mistake.
    God is too deep to explain Himself.”

    [See Isaiah 55:8, 9]

    For a much more intelligent discussion of the above issue than I could ever do, see C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.

  13. Chris4692 says:

    Janice Moore says:
    May 21, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Oh, Chris (thank you!) and K. D., it’s hard to type when you can’t see the keyboard. Thank you so much for caring enough to tell me to watch that deeply moving video as the woman is REUNITED with her little Schnauzer.

    I am relieved. I had seen the video previously, and assumed it was the same after seeing the cover, but after commenting was concerned that the video had been inappropriately been modified.

  14. Steve B says:

    I am going to be hard and pragmatics here
    If you live in a quake zone shouldn’t you expect earthquakes?
    If you live on a volcano shouldn’t expect that volcano to erupt?
    If you live on a flood plain shouldn’t you expect the river to flood?
    If you live in tornado ally shouldn’t you expect tornadoes?

    It is not like it hasn’t happened before.

  15. Box of Rocks says:

    ” Steve B says:
    May 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm
    I am going to be hard and pragmatics here
    If you live in a quake zone shouldn’t you expect earthquakes?
    If you live on a volcano shouldn’t expect that volcano to erupt?
    If you live on a flood plain shouldn’t you expect the river to flood?
    If you live in tornado ally shouldn’t you expect tornadoes?

    It is not like it hasn’t happened before.”

    Well yeah. It is even more fun to go out and look for the tornado!

  16. Theo Goodwin says:

    Here is a little tip for people who take photos of tornado damage from the air and post them. A photo that shows nothing but damage contains very little information. If you want to inform others with your photo then show the undamaged areas as a border on the damaged area or path.

    Try to include “landmarks” or “markers” that will give us some perspective on the damage. If the devastated area contained only frame houses but along the border there are brick houses that survived then we can make better estimates of the tornado’s strength at that location.

    Of course, the best aerial photo shows the tornado’s path as it winds its way through a variety of different kinds of buildings.

  17. Adam Gallon says:

    This, unsurprisingly, made the BBC news yesterday, I was waiting for some sort of attribution to “Climate Change” & was amazed whenever the news came on, that the presenters made the point that there was no evidence for this! OK, the rider “currently” was added, but it looks like times are a changing.

  18. polistra says:

    The specific problem here is that Okies seem to have forgotten what they formerly knew about the need for shelters. It struck me immediately when looking at those houses: they were built wrong (with lots of wide roof spans), and the money went into fancy stuff instead of safety. Later news about lack of shelter in the school verifies this impression.

  19. Steve B says:

    Box of Rocks says:
    May 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    “Well yeah. It is even more fun to go out and look for the tornado!”

    Well yeah but the seekers are usually prepared LOL

  20. izen says:

    @- “Note the collision of a strong cold and dry air mass with a warm moist air mass was the trigger for this event, “global warming” had nothing to do with it.”

    That is a very strong assertion which I doubt it is possible to substantiate.
    I would accept that the rising surface temperatures, the rising moisture content of the atmosphere, the rising sea surface temperatures that provide the warm moist air and the variations in the jet stream that provide the cold dry air that are all caused by AGW may have only a small influence on the formation of tornado conditions and the subsequent storms.

    But to claim that AGW had – ‘ NOTHING ‘ to do with the formation, position and severity of this storm does not seem credible. It also smacks of ideological opportunism to assert AGW has no role in this disaster just as much as claiming it does.

  21. Filbert Cobb says:

    @Adam Gallon, May 22, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Second that. When the BBC item started I though “Here we go …” – but we didn’t. In fact the narrative seemed to go out of its way to mention that there had been very damaging tornadoes in the past in Oklahoma and the inference I took from this was that they were saying “Precedented”. Time will tell if this is a new editorial policy.

  22. Steve B says:

    izen says:
    May 22, 2013 at 4:23 am

    @- “Note the collision of a strong cold and dry air mass with a warm moist air mass was the trigger for this event, “global warming” had nothing to do with it.”

    That is a very strong assertion which I doubt it is possible to substantiate.
    I would accept that the rising surface temperatures, the rising moisture content of the atmosphere, the rising sea surface temperatures that provide the warm moist air and the variations in the jet stream that provide the cold dry air that are all caused by AGW may have only a small influence on the formation of tornado conditions and the subsequent storms.

    But to claim that AGW had – ‘ NOTHING ‘ to do with the formation, position and severity of this storm does not seem credible. It also smacks of ideological opportunism to assert AGW has no role in this disaster just as much as claiming it does.
    *****************************************************************************************************
    So did AGW have anything to do with F5 Tornadoes say 250 years ago? 500 years ago? Pre WWII? or even Pre 60′s? AGW isn’t even credible.

  23. Mumble McGuirk says:

    A note of caution about comparing apples/oranges. The wind values from 1999 were based on a direct Doppler measurement whilst the values for the current Moore tornado are based on the EF scale *estimated* from damage. Also the Doppler observations were probably made some distance from the ground. The wind speeds in a tornado are higher several hundred feet above the ground as opposed to what is experienced on the ground. Also, when the Enhanced Fujita scale was adopted the overall wind speeds for each category were lowered based on more up-to-date measurements.

  24. izen says:

    @- “So did AGW have anything to do with F5 Tornadoes say 250 years ago? 500 years ago? Pre WWII? or even Pre 60′s? AGW isn’t even credible.”

    No, of course AGW did not have anything to do with, or affect F5 tornadoes 250 or 500 years ago just as human influences were absent from the causes of forest fires back then.
    But the absence of a particular factor in the past that may modify these events does not mean that that factor is incapable of modifying such events in the present.
    To argue otherwise is a clear logical error.

  25. David vun Kannon says:

    @izen – your comments are sound, however I have strong doubts that AGW is much affecting tornados in their nature, timing, or extent. We obviously cannot point at single tornado occurences, because that is arguing from anecdote, not data.
    I did my own little study last year, multiplying track length by track width by EF rating derived windspeed, some conversion constants, all to arrive at an estimate of yearly tornado energy in the US. My number did not have a strong trend. So even with better reporting of small tornados (a confounding factor in any analysis), it does not seem that this very specific and local type of extreme weather is tracking AGW in energy.
    Because of AGW, the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. Broadly speaking, differences between cold air temperatures and warm air temperatures are growing smaller. So to the extent that the diferences in warm and cold air masses drive tonado formation, you might argue that AGW should diminish the energy available for tornados to form.
    I did not study location. You could argue that expanding tropical zones should push the meeting point of warm and cold air northwards over the years. I also did not study time of year, and you could look for an effect there as well.

  26. Chris D. says:

    Everyone seems to be gobbling up that story about the old lady and her dog. That is until people start to notice they really didnt help that lady at all. It seemed far more important to keep the camera rolling and to WATCH the old lady free her dog than to help her. Also, the reporter’s reaction to seeing a dog seemed a little less than genuine.

    Why is that? First, you have to consider the source. This story, while repeated by every media outlet known to mankind, originated with CBS. Why didn’t they put down the damned camera and help that old lady (the right thing to do for those of you who have trouble following this)? Consider the possibility the dog was planted by the crew to manufacture a “heart-warming story” for all of us to share on Facebook. Consider the fact neither the reporter or camera operator offered any kind of assistance. The reporter did swap the microphone from one hand to the other and offered a very small hand, but it didn’t amount to anything. That old lady basically uncovered the dog herself, while asking for help that was not given.

    Why help out an old lady when it’s better to keep the camera rolling? Perhaps, since they planted the dog, they already knew the dog was fine. Why would CBS (or the media in general) pull a stunt like that? To find that answer, one only has to look at the ratings…… Dead Last!

    Case Closed – Dry your eyes. This story is fake.

  27. Ken Loffer says:

    Since 2010 there have been 9 tornadoes within 10-15 miles of my location in Central Oklahoma, including an EF1 within a mile, 4 EF4s and now an EF5. It’s just the weather odds for this part of the country evening out from so many years without threats.
    Implying that tornado frequencies have anything to do with global climate shows the ignorance and agenda of those who would imply such a connection.

  28. izen says:

    @- Ken Loffer
    “Implying that tornado frequencies have anything to do with global climate shows the ignorance and agenda of those who would imply such a connection.”

    Implying that tornado frequencies have NOTHING to do with the global climate is equally asinine.

    The influence may be to increase or decrease incidence and/or magnitude by small or large amounts.
    The least credible possibility is that the large changes in the climate over the last few decades have ZERO effect on tornado incidence and severity.

  29. Ken Loffer says:

    @izen: Your “… large changes in the climate over the last few decades:” is somewhat revealing.

    Hurricane frequency and strength, alleged by some in the media, to have increased in recent years has been debunked by experts such as R.Pielke, Jr. If you knew ANYTHING about tornadoes, you would know that connecting them to short range changes in world climate is even more unprovable. The increase in total tornado frequency is due to much higher detection rates in recent years, especially of weaker (E)F1 and (E)F2 twisters. Strong, and thus more readily observable, tornado frequencies have been flat.

    IPCC( 2.7.3.4 para 4)
    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/092.htm

    Perhaps my comment should, more accurately, have read : “AT PRESENT , implying that tornado frequencies have anything to do with global climate CHANGE shows the ignorance and agenda of those who would imply such a connection”., but you seem to have assumed that amended wording heart anyway,

    Tornadoes are complex meso-scale events, still not fully understood. Don’t look look for climate models which have been weak at predicting regional weather, in general, to have much of significance to say about tornadoes any time soon.

    Finally, and with a little bit of tongue in cheek, if you are one of Al Gore’s volunteers sent out to take on the skeptics, good luck!

  30. Steve P says:

    izen says:
    May 22, 2013 at 4:23 am

    But to claim that AGW had – ‘ NOTHING ‘ to do with the formation, position and severity of this storm does not seem credible.

    It seems even less credible to claim a possible effect from the unproven conjecture of AGW.

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