Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak

From Academic Kids

The Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak is the May 3, 1999 tornado event that killed 46 people. This tornado event ranks in severity with The Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak. Sixty-six tornadoes broke out in Oklahoma and Kansas. It was the most prolific tornado outbreak in Oklahoma history, although not the deadliest.

Missing image
Oklahoma City NEXRAD image at 7:12 pm. The radar shows a classical hook echo at the location of the Bridge Crrek/Moore tornado.

The beautiful May morning turned into raging dark skies in the afternoon. In the late evening, tornadoes broke out across Oklahoma on this day like no other. This storm system produced a supercell thunderstorm that included the tornado with the strongest winds ever measured. At around 7:00 P.M., a mobile Doppler radar detected winds of 318 mph inside a tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. (The old record was a 286-mph wind measurement from a Doppler radar near Red Rock, Oklahoma). The 318-mph wind speed is the top edge of the dreaded F5 rating on the Fujita scale; however, the winds occurred above the ground, and winds at the surface may not have been quite this intense. Still, the damage was severe enough to merit an F5 rating for the tornado. This tornado also struck Newcastle, Bridge Creek, Midwest City, and Del City.

Forty-two people were killed in this tornado. More than 10,500 buildings and 47 businesses were destroyed. This tornado caused $1.1 billion in damage, making it the costliest single tornado in U.S. history. This was the deadliest tornado since the April 10, 1979 Wichita Falls, Texas Tornado which also killed 42. However, early warning saved many lives. Warnings were issued well in advance of the tornado's arrival, and the Oklahoma City broadcast media interrupted programming to follow the storms on radar and even by helicopter. The death toll would have been much higher if people had not been warned so far in advance.

The May 3 tornado event was actually a 3-day event that included tornadoes in Kansas and Texas. A deadly tornado killed six people in Haysville and Wichita, Kansas, the same day. The event killed 1 person in Texas on Tuesday, May 4 and then killed four in Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday.

See also: List of tornadoes and tornado outbreaks

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