Moore Oklahoma Tornado Threw Debris 20,000 Feet Into the Air

Posted on May 21, 2013

The monster tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma yesterday was at least an EF4 with winds up to 200 mph. It may have been an EF5 (winds over 200 mph) but the upgrade won't come until an assessment by the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel says he has a feeling it will end up being an EF5:

The tornado carved a path of destruction for over twenty miles and it was at least one-mile-wide. The path of the tornado is fairly similar to the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma in May 1999.

Moore and the Oklahoma City region have the unfortunate distinction of being hit by two of the world's worst tornadoes in modern history. There was also a bad one in 2003. This image from the National Weather Service shows the paths of the 1999 and 2013 tornadoes. The red path is yesterday's tornado path. A larger version of the image can be found here.

The tornado's debris ball and hook echo were clearly visible on radar. This is the often case with the most dangerous tornadoes - the kind dubbed "grinders" that literally grind into the earth as they move. You can find some good images of the debris ball on radar here. The debris ball is exactly what it sounds like. It is pieces of homes, trees, dirt, cars, etc lifted by the winds. Radar can detect the flying debris once it is high enough in the air. CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is quoted as saying the debris was lifted into the air as high as 20,000 feet by the tornado.

This video shows the tornado from a video taken with a cell phone. Take a look:

Update: The National Weather Service now says the Moore tornado was an EF5. The first EF5 of 2013.

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