Historic Tornado Series: Moore Oklahoma Tornado May 20,2013
On May 20, 2013, around school dismissal time the town of Moore, Oklahoma had their sense of security shattered when a 1.3 mile wide EF5 tornado with max speeds of 200+ winds tore through Moore. Cutting a 30 square mile swatch of devastation, hitting 2 elementary schools, the medical center, many homes and killing 24 people.10 of which were children. Until the Moore Oklahoma tornado, It had been 2 years since the last EF5 strike.
The previous day the town of Shawnee was hit by an EF4 tornado, and the area hit by the EF5 was then promptly drenched by heavy rains that evening. The outbreak gives true meaning to the name of “Tornado Alley”. Those of us who grew up in tornado alley, grow up being accustomed to tornado season, but situations such as Monday, bring the nearness of potential death by tornado clearly into focus and make us all reevaluate our priorities. Do we really have to do that load of dishes right now, or can it wait while you snuggle with your child and watch cartoons?
As a parent of elementary school age kids, as I was reading the twitter feed of all my storm chaser friends and fellow weather geeks, I literally cried when I read that a school had been hit. I had at that exact time, been in a pick-up line to pick up my own children from school. The thought of a monster tornado tearing through at that particular time, is absolutely terrifying. It also brought to mind, tornado safety and schools plans. Like when I was a child, most schools are still following the in the hallway, kneel down and put your hands over your head plan. When my kids started school, as a Skywarn spotter and a parent, I questioned the school about their severe weather plan and was appalled to discover that the kindergartners were to be put in a hallway with a door with a glass windows at the far end. Hello wind tunnel and flying glass. After the Moore tornado I learned that the county had decided to build a storm shelter to house the kids and faculty during the school hours and to meet the needs of the community after school hours, however, it won’t be finished till 2015. Unfortunately, the schools current plan, is the norm for most schools, it was the plan when I was in elementary school. I was relieved to hear that one of the schools in Moore at least had a shelter. Without that, the death toll would’ve been much higher.
The type of devastation that occurs from an EF5 cannot be fully appreciated in photos only, or the overwhelming feeling of awe and sadness. In 2011 I saw the Tuscaloosa,Alabama damage, first hand, a month after the event. Like I already mentioned, I grew up accustomed to tornadoes, I’ve seen EF1-3 damage before, I survived my first close tornado event when I was 2 years old, in a mobile home. My Mom said the walls were breathing, my first memory of a tornado event was a direct hit Sikeston and Vanduser, Missouri took in May 1986.My grandpa lifted me up so I could look out the window at the tornado as it went by in the field near the house we were taking shelter in. Afterwards, my Dad went directly to his sister’s house in Vanduser and I vividly remember the soda can squished silos, mobile homes twisted and flipped upside down and glass everywhere. I was 5. What I saw in Tuscaloosa was unlike any tornado damage I had ever seen, it literally took my breath away and left me speechless. As I drove through the neighborhoods thick with house and trees, I wondered if I was headed in the right direction. Then I topped a hill and there it was lying before me.Nothingness as far as I could see, it looked like the set of a war movie.
So having seen that, and having the weather knowledge that I have (I have been a Skywarn Spotter since 1998), the gravity of the Moore tragedy, lays heavy on my mind. It is imperative that people heed the warnings and take shelter. Spotters and chasers risk their lives to watch and report and it’s very upsetting when people who know about the warnings, don’t listen. Please, when the sirens go off, when you hear about a warning for your area,listen.Yes,it may be the 3rd one that day, it may be 4 days in a row, the last one may have been in the other side of the county but this one might not be. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Hug your kids and a watch the skies Andrea McGhee-Lead Blogger Mr Twister