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The Tornado Outbreak of May 24, 2011

A tornado outbreak occurred over parts of northern and central Oklahoma during the day on May 24, 2011, with violent tornadoes devastating several communities. By the end of the day, one EF-5, two EF-4, and two EF-3 tornadoes destroyed buildings, ripped up trees and power poles, and unfortunately, resulted in 11 deaths and 293 injuries.

The day began with a strong upper level trough ejecting out of the southwestern United States. The trough took on a negative tilt as it approached the southern Plains. A strong jet stream was located at both the middle and upper levels rotating around the upper trough. At the surface, a low pressure strengthened rapidly over northwestern Oklahoma, keeping the low-level flow of warm, moist air to flow east of a dry line that had moved into western Oklahoma.

Thunderstorms developed by early afternoon over western Oklahoma, and quickly became supercells as they moved northeast. Strong low-level rotation developed early, with the first tornado occurring over Blaine County, and moved northeast into Major County. Another supercell rapidly gained low-level rotation as it moved from Caddo into Canadian County. This tornado became the strongest of them all as it moved north of El Reno, west of Piedmont, and to south of Guthrie in Logan county. Nine people died as a result of this violent tornado.

Two more powerful supercells developed over Grady county, and they moved northeast into McClain and Cleveland counties. Finally, the final tornado occurred east of Norman into Pottawatomie county. The timing of this outbreak could not have come at a worse time, as rush hour was just unfolding as the tornadoes neared the Oklahoma City metro area.

Note: A zip file containing GIS data for the 5/24/2011 tornado damage paths can be found here.

Official Storm Damage Survey Details (updated 3:40 pm CDT, 6/8/2011)

Preliminary Tornado Tracks for the May 24, 2011 Tornado Outbreak

Radar reflectivity and storm relative velocity images of several supercells moving through the I-35 corridor of central Oklahoma at 5:31 pm CDT on May 24, 2011. Tornado near Goldsby, OK - Photo courtesy of Derrick James Tornado near Lookeba, OK -  Photos courtesy of Dal Archer
Radar reflectivity and storm relative velocity images
for Central OK at 5:31 pm CDT on May 24, 2011
Tornado near Chickasha -
Photo courtesy of
Derrick James
Tornado near Lookeba -
Photo courtesy of
Dal Archer

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Tornado A1 - The Canton Lake Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado A1 - The Fairview Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado B1 - The Lookeba Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado B2 - The Calumet-El Reno-Piedmont-Guthrie Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado B3 - The Richland Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado B4 - The Stillwater Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado C1 - The Chickasha-Blanchard-Newcastle Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado C2 - The Newcastle Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado D1 - The Washington-Goldsby Lake Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado D2 - The Goldsby Lake Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado D3 - The McLoud Lake Tornado of 5/24/2011 Tornado E1 - The Ravia Tornado of 5/24/2011 is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.