JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the second time in 14 years, a powerful EF5 tornado has decimated Moore, Okla., with pulverizing winds in excess of 200 mph.
While it is as prepared for tornadoes as any community can be, two dozen people lost there lives and more than 100 more were seriously injured. Surviving this level of fury in a closet or bathtub is not assured -- the only safe place in this type of storm below ground.
According to damage survey teams dispatched by the National Weather Service, at least one area of EF5 damage was observed where homes were completely blown away -- not a single wall standing. At its widest point, the tornado was about 1.3 miles wide and winds topped out around 210 mph.
Monday's tornado took an almost identical path to the infamous May 3rd, 1999, tornado; a twister with winds exceeding 300 mp that still ranks as the most powerful tornado ever recorded on the Earth. That tornado killed 46 people and obliterated 300 homes in the towns of Newcastle and Moore.
Meteorologically speaking, this tornado isn't unusual, but certainly isn't commonplace either. The last EF5 tornado to hit the United States occurred on May 24th, 2011 in Peidmont, Okla. -- a mere two days after the EF5 tornado destroyed parts of Joplin, Mo.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says this storm hatched in central Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas and southwest Missouri as an area of concern several days prior to the actual event, with a moderate risk being issued more than a day in advance.
The ingredients that came together to help organize killer tornadoes are not uncommon or unusual for this time of year. Oklahoma, being void of any geological features that would interrupt air flow, is the landing strip for cool, dry air coming in off the Rockies. Oklahoma also sits directly north of the Gulf of Mexico, which allows warm, moist air to rush into the state.
Mix those ingredients with a vigorous upper-level disturbance and you have the perfect setup for rotating thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.
It's not that this tornado was any more powerful than the others of yesteryear, but it's the fact that it targeted a densely populated area that will make this tornado among the infamous ones of May 3, 1999, Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.