Oklahoma Tornadoes Bigger Than First Reported

May 24, 2011 will not soon be forgotten by Oklahomans. Seven tornadoes tore throw the Sooner States. Ten people were killed and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed. The path destruction of these 11 tornadoes (not seven as reported earlier) started north of Lawton and stretched to Enid, almost the entire width of Oklahoma. As the news came pouring in regarding the size of these tornadoes, Oklahomans were surprised they were only graded as EF-2s and EF-3s. As more information was gathered from the scenes, those grades were quickly changed by the National Weather Service. These storms may be upgraded again, depending on the information gathered in additional studies.

The tornado that traveled from Binger to Guthrie is now graded as an EF-4 now. This was the tornado that destroyed the Guthrie Animal Shelter. It was on the ground for several miles, destroying anything and everything in it’s path.

“I had been watching the weather since all the tornadoes started,” Peggy, from Guthrie, explained in a telephone interview. “I knew they were big, but that many big storms at once is mind boggling, even for a tornado-seasoned Okie.”

The tornado that traveled from Chickasha to near Moore was also changed to an EF-4. From the footage shown on the day of the tornadoes and after, this tornado was a giant. Moore was bracing for the worse once again. Moore was the tornado that was hit by the EF-5 tornado on May 3, 1999 and most of the city was destroyed.

“I was watching Gary [England on KWTV] and saw it coming,” Jeff, from Moore stated. “All I could think about was May 3, 1999 when we were hit with the [E]F-5. When I heard on the news that this storm had winds stronger than the May 3 tornado, the strongest winds ever recorded, I wasn’t surprised. I saw the footage; it was a monster. When will the [E]F-6 be added to the scale?”

The tornado that traveled from Canton Lake to near Stillwater was changed to an EF-3 tornado. This tornado is responsible for shutting down Canton Lake for the Memorial Day week-end; there is too much debris in the lake for it to be safe for visitors.

“I have family that was the path of the storm that just missed Stillwater,” Karen, from Carter County, said. “I just prayed it stayed in rural areas and didn’t hurt many people or homes.”

Known as the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale, developed by T. Theodore Fujita in 1971, grades the tornadoes from EF-0 to EF-5. The EF-O tornadoes have light damage with wind speeds of less than 73 mph. The tornadoes that struck Oklahoma had wind speeds from 206 mph (an EF-3) to over 300 mph (an EF-5); the EF-4 tornadoes have wind speeds between 207-260 mph.

The National Weather Service is responsible for grading the tornadoes. They do this by reviewing the damage to determine wind speed. Although the wind speed can be estimated on radar, the damage done by the tornado gives a more accurate reading. The National Weather Service is located in Norman, Oklahoma, another city also affected by the tornadoes.