Deadly Oklahoma tornado widest on record, rare EF5

 

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – The National Weather Service says the deadly tornado that struck near Oklahoma City late last week was another top-of-the-scale EF5 that packed winds reaching 295 mph.

Metorologists speculate, it’s only a matter of time before a super tornado rolls over the top of a major metro area.

“It’s just a matter of statistics,” says KSNW-TV Chief Meteorologist Dave Freeman. “But so far… we’ve been lucky. We have a lot more rural area in Kansas than we do city. But urban sprawl continues… here in Kansas and certainly in Oklahoma.”

A tornado touches down near El Reno, Okla., Friday, May 31, 2013, causing damage to structures and injuring travelers on Interstate 40. I-40 has been closed after severe weather rolled through the area. (AP Photo/The Omaha World-Herald, Chris Machian)

A tornado touches down near El Reno, Okla., Friday, May 31, 2013, causing damage to structures and injuring travelers on Interstate 40. I-40 has been closed after severe weather rolled through the area. (AP Photo/The Omaha World-Herald, Chris Machian)

The weather service also says the twister’s 2.6-mile width is the widest ever recorded.

The weather service initially rated the Friday tornado that hit El Reno as an EF3. But the agency upgraded the ranking Tuesday after surveying damage. Eighteen people were killed in the tornado and subsequent flooding in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

The weather services says the El Reno tornado tops a 2.5-mile wide tornado that hit Hallam, Neb., in 2004.

Those in the weather and damage response community say the El Reno tornado, while deadly and ugly, was a narrow miss for the metro area of Oklahoma City.

“El Reno was bad,” says Freeman. “And here in Kansas we get some of the most violent tornadoes on the planet. So, will one of those hit a major population center? It is going to happen. The question then becomes how well will we be prepared as a family, as a school, workplace, as a city. How well will we be prepared to cope with it?”

The update on the El Reno tornado means the Oklahoma City area has seen two of the extremely rare EF5 tornadoes in less than a month. The other hit Moore on May 20, killing 24 people.

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