2013 Moore tornado
|2013 Newcastle-Moore Tornado|
Tornado as it passed southwest of Moore
|Date||May 20, 2013|
|Time||2:56–3:35 p.m. CDT (UTC−05:00)|
|Damages||$2 billion (estimate)|
|Casualties||24 fatalities (+1 indirect) 377 injuries|
|Area affected||Grady, McClain, and Cleveland counties in Oklahoma; particularly the city of Moore|
The 2013 Moore tornado [Official NWS naming Newcastle-Moore Tornado] was an EF5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, and adjacent areas on the afternoon of May 20, 2013, with peak winds estimated at 210 mph (340 km/h), killing 24 people (+1 who died later) and injuring 377 others. The tornado was part of a larger weather system that had produced several other tornadoes over the previous two days. The tornado touched down west of Newcastle at 2:56 p.m. CDT (19:56 UTC), staying on the ground for 39 minutes over a 17-mile (27 km) path, crossing through a heavily populated section of Moore. The tornado was 1.3 miles (2.1 km) wide at its peak. Despite the tornado following a roughly similar track to the even deadlier and similarly destructive 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado, very few homes and neither of the stricken schools had purpose-built storm shelters.
On May 20, 2013, a prominent central upper trough moved eastward with a lead upper low pivoting over the Dakotas and Upper Midwest region. A Southern stream shortwave trough and a moderately strong polar jet moved east-northeastward over the southern Rockies to the southern Great Plains and Ozarks area, with severe thunderstorms forming during the peak hours of heating. With the influence of moderately strong cyclonic flow aloft, the air mass was expected to become unstable across much of the southern Great Plains, Ozarks, and middle Mississippi Valley by the afternoon.
Evidence of an unstable air mass included dewpoints in the upper 60s °F (20 °C) and lower 70s °F (20–22 °C), temperatures in the low to mid 80s °F (27–30 °C), and CAPE values ranging from 3500–5000 J/kg. Deep layer wind shear speeds of 40–50 kt would enhance storm organization and intensity. These ingredients were present ahead of a cold front extending from an eastern Dakotas surface low southwestward to near the Kansas City area and western Oklahoma, and ahead of a dry line extending from southwest Oklahoma southward into western north and west-central Texas. Outflow remnants from the previous night and early day convection across the Ozarks and middle Mississippi Valley were a factor in severe weather development with the most aggressive heating and destabilization on the western edge of this activity across the southern Great Plains and just ahead of a cold front. The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma had warned as early as May 15 that there was a chance of severe weather on May 20.
The most intense severe weather activity was expected across the southern Great Plains, specifically central Oklahoma, during the afternoon hours. As such, the Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms during the early morning hours of May 20 from southeastern Missouri to north-central Texas. The degree of wind shear, moisture and instability within the warm sector favored the development of supercells. Very large hail and tornadoes were expected with the supercells, with the possibility of a few strong tornadoes. A tornado watch was issued at 1:10 p.m. CDT early that afternoon for the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and portions of north-central Texas. The storm that produced the tornado developed around 2:00 p.m. CDT that afternoon across northern Grady County, Oklahoma. Its rapid intensification resulted in the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Norman issuing a severe thunderstorm warning for portions of Grady, Cleveland, McClain and Oklahoma Counties (including southwestern portions of the immediate Oklahoma City area) at 2:12 p.m. CDT.
At 2:40 p.m. CDT, a tornado warning was issued for the storm for far northeastern Grady, western Cleveland, northern McClain and southern Oklahoma Counties, as it was approaching the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. At 2:56 p.m. CDT, the tornado touched down roughly 4.4 miles (7.1 km) west of Newcastle in Grady County as an EF0. Tracking northeast through McClain County, the tornado rapidly intensified, attaining EF4 intensity within ten minutes and 4 miles (6.4 km) of touching down. This area of EF4 damage was in semi-rural residential subdivisions north of Newcastle (west-northwest of exit 108 on Interstate 44 just outside of a business area) and was very brief. By 3:01 p.m. CDT, a second more strongly worded warning was issued for the area. A tornado emergency was declared for southern Oklahoma City and Moore as storm spotters confirmed a large and violent tornado approaching the area. As the tornado crossed the Canadian River into Cleveland County, a decommissioned U.S. 62/U.S. 277 bridge was severely damaged and had to be demolished after the tornado ripped part of it from its mount and scattered it across Interstate 44. The tornado then moved directly toward South Oklahoma City and Moore, roughly following Southwest 149th Street. At this point it began to grow rapidly in width, and a second brief area of EF4 damage was observed just east of Interstate 44. The tornado tracked through mostly rural areas of extreme southern parts of South Oklahoma City and southwest Moore at EF2 to EF3-strength before entering larger residential areas near Western Avenue. There, two larger instances of EF4-strength damage occurred just west of Interstate 35.
The tornado continued to intensify and reached EF5 intensity as it struck The Orr Family Farm, where up to 100 horses were reported killed. Several homes and structures on the property were swept away (especially at the Celestial Acres training area), and a 10-ton water tank on the farm was picked up and thrown more than a half-mile by the tornado. Nearby, Briarwood Elementary School also took a direct hit and was completely destroyed by the tornado, with the damage to the school rated EF5, and in a nearby subdivision where a few homes were swept away. One woman was killed in her home near the school, and ground surveys revealed severe shredding and scouring of low-lying vegetation in this area. Winds from the tornado at this point were estimated to be 200 to 210 mph (320 to 340 km/h).
|National Weather Service Tornado Damage Survey Map|
The tornado quickly lost the peak EF5 strength and weakened to EF4. It then caused heavy damage to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed. Many houses in the area (along South Santa Fe Avenue and surrounding streets) were destroyed, with several being completely flattened or reduced to bare slabs. In one of these houses (a block away from Plaza Towers), a woman was killed as she tried to seek shelter in a closet. That swath of EF4 damage also included an area on the west side of Interstate 35, with Moore Medical Center and the Moore Warren Theatre being heavily damaged (the concrete and reinforced steel-constructed movie theater suffered mainly external damage to its roof and marquee). At least a dozen cars were piled up against the front entrance of the medical center. A bowling alley in the area was destroyed, and a 7-Eleven was completely flattened, with four people killed inside (including one infant). The nearby Moore Cemetery was heavily damaged as well.
The tornado then crossed Interstate 35 at the center of town just south of 4th Street (where cars were tossed across the interstate and littered through the median), abruptly shrank in size, and moved to the east side of Moore, where many more homes were either damaged or destroyed. The EF4 damage continued on the east side of the interstate (despite the rapid decrease in size) before the tornado started to weaken near the intersection of Southeast 4th Street and South Sunnylane Road. The tornado continued briefly at EF2 to EF3-strength (though two very small additional areas of EF4 damage were observed) before becoming a thin rope tornado and rapidly weakening. It then dissipated about 4.8 miles (7.7 km) east of Moore around 3:35 p.m. CDT near the corner of Air Depot Drive and Southeast 119th Street in the rural southeast corner of Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported that 24 people killed (with another indirect), an estimated 1,150 homes were destroyed, and an estimated $2 billion in damages. The number of injured was 377. Most areas in the path of the storm suffered catastrophic damage. Entire subdivisions were obliterated, and houses were flattened in a large swath of the city. The majority of a neighborhood just west of the Moore Medical Center was destroyed. Witnesses said the tornado more closely resembled "a giant black wall of destruction" than a typical twister. Among the hardest hit areas were two public schools: Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School. At the latter school, 75 children and staff were present when the tornado struck. Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Moore Medical Center was heavily damaged, but no injuries were caused. Staff had to relocate 30 patients to a hospital in Norman and another hospital. Part of Interstate 35 was shut down due to debris that had been thrown onto the freeway. On May 21, Moore still did not have running water. There were more than 61,500 power outages related to the tornado. More than 100 people were rescued from the rubble on May 20.
The Oklahoma Department of Insurance said the insurance claims for damage would likely be more than $1 billion. A family farm and training center for horses took a direct hit and numerous horses were killed. Some meteorologists estimated that the energy released by the storm could have been from eight to more than 600 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Within the first two days, it was reported that between 237 and 240 people had been injured, the tally later increasing to over 350. On the morning of May 21, the medical examiner's office incorrectly stated that 91 bodies of tornado victims had been received. This number was up from the earlier incorrectly reported 51 bodies of tornado victims being received. The actual number turned out to be 24 confirmed tornado victims and one indirect victim. A 90 year-old woman who suffered a fractured skull during the tornado later suffered a pair of strokes and died on August 5.  It was the deadliest U.S. tornado since the Joplin, Missouri, tornado that killed 158 people in 2011.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on May 20. She held her first post-tornado news conference at noon on May 21. The Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed Urban Search and Rescue teams to the tornado-hit areas, and provided incident command personnel to organize and support rescue efforts. The Oklahoma National Guard was also deployed. Governor Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama; in a press release, the White House stated: "The President told Governor Fallin that the people of Oklahoma are in his and the First Lady’s thoughts and prayers and, while his team will continue to keep him updated, he urged her to be in touch directly if there were additional resources the Administration could provide." Mary Fallin quickly dismissed the idea to make it law for schools to have a required shelter to protect the State's children.
President Obama declared a major disaster in the state, ordering federal aid to the affected areas. The specified counties were Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie, with funding for hazard mitigation measures available statewide. Obama visited the disaster-stricken areas on May 26.
The third season finale of the sitcom Mike & Molly, titled "Windy City", was pulled by CBS from its original May 20 airdate within hours of the event due to the episode featuring a tornado descending on Chicago; the episode was later rescheduled to air ten days later on May 30, 2013.
At noon on May 21, the U.S. Senate held a moment of silence for the victims. Several countries and Pope Francis offered condolences, and the United Nations offered assistance in the recovery efforts. The Canadian Red Cross began accepting donations of money and supplies for their American counterparts, to assist with disaster relief and recovery.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, Direct Relief International, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Continental Resources, Devon Energy, ONEOK, Koch Industries, Hobby Lobby, and Carrie Underwood all pledged donations to the relief efforts.
On May 29, 2013, NBC aired Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert, a fundraising concert hosted by country singer Blake Shelton and featured performances from Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Usher, Darius Rucker and Luke Bryan. The concert raised more than $6 million for the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
On June 2, 2013, Discovery Channel aired an hour-long documentary about the storm titled Mile-Wide Tornado: Oklahoma Disaster. The documentary provides a comprehensive look at the tornado's impact and compares it to the 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado.
- Tornadoes of 2013
- May 18–21, 2013 tornado outbreak
- List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
- List of F5 and EF5 tornadoes
- List of tornado-related deaths at schools
- 1999 Bridge Creek – Moore tornado – very similar tornado in relation to size and location, but stronger and deadlier
- 2003 Moore tornado – violent tornado struck a somewhat similar area
- 2010 Moore – Choctaw tornado – slightly weaker tornado struck a somewhat similar area
- 2013 El Reno tornado – Another EF5 tornado that struck nearby areas 11 days later
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2013 Moore tornado.|
- Preliminary Reconnaissance of the May 20, 2013, Newcastle-Moore Tornado in Oklahoma (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
- Moore, Oklahoma Tornadoes (1890-Present) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Radar loop of the Moore tornado on YouTube
- Formation and initial impact of the Moore tornado on YouTube
- "Inside" The Moore Tornado on YouTube
- "Outside" The Moore Tornado on YouTube
- Satellite images of Moore taken on May 22, 2013 – two days after the tornado from Google Crisis Response
- Map of tornado path and damage from The New York Times
- Map of tornadoes in OKC metro area since 1950 from The New York Times
- 2011 Moore City Map from City of Moore
- 2013 Oklahoma City Metro Map from Oklahoma Department Of Transportation
|10 costliest US tornadoes|
|Rank||Area affected||Date||Damage 1||Adjusted Damage 2|
|1||Joplin, Missouri||May 22, 2011||2800||2935|
|2||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||April 27, 2011||2450||2569|
|3||Moore, Oklahoma||May 20, 2013||2000||2025|
|4||Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma||May 3, 1999||1000||1415|
|5||Hackleburg, Alabama||April 27, 2011||1290||1352|
|6||Wichita Falls, Texas||April 10, 1979||400||1299|
|7||Omaha, Nebraska||May 6, 1975||250||1094|
|8||Lubbock, Texas||May 11, 1970||250||820|
|9||Topeka, Kansas||June 8, 1966||250||726|
|10||Windsor Locks, Connecticut||October 3, 1979||200||649|
Source: Brooks, Harold E.; C. A. Doswell (Feb 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999". Weather and Forecasting (American Meteorological Society) 16 (1): 168–76. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2. 3
1. These are the unadjusted damage totals in millions of US dollars.
2. Raw damage totals adjusted for inflation, in millions of 2014 USD.
3. A search of NCDC Storm Data indicates no tornadoes between 1999 and 2010 have caused more than $400 million in damage.