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EF-5
Tornado

The May 20, 2013 Newcastle-South OKC-Moore EF-5 Tornado

Photo of the May 20, 2014 Newcastle-South OKC-Moore EF-5 Tornado was provided courtesy of Gabe Garfield.
Photo of the May 20, 2014 Newcastle-South OKC-Moore EF-5 Tornado was provided courtesy of Gabe Garfield.

Overview

A tornado outbreak occurred during the afternoon and evening hours of the May 20, 2013. Several tornadoes occurred from central Oklahoma down through south central Oklahoma near the Red River. The strongest tornado touched down near Newcastle and traveled through Moore and south Oklahoma City. This tornado caused catastrophic damage in these areas, with a maximum rating of EF-5. The tornado claimed 24 lives and caused billions of dollars in damage. In addition to the tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds cause damage in many areas.

The violent Newcastle-South OKC-Moore tornado was first observed at 1:56 PM CST (2:56 PM CDT) developing about one-half mile south of Oklahoma State Highway 37 in northwest Newcastle to the east of Rockwell Avenue. EF-4 damage was observed soon after the tornado crossed State Highway 37. The tornado continued to expand in size as it approached the Canadian River and moved into Cleveland County.

The tornado then moved into Cleveland County at 2:04 PM CST from McClain County as it moved northeast across the Canadian River near U.S. Interstate Highway 44. The tornado then turned more east and then east-northeast after crossing I-44. Violent EF-4 damage was again observed as it began to move into progressively higher density residental areas approaching May Avenue.

The center of the large tornado path passed near SW 149th Street and Western Avenue. After crossing Western Avenue, numerous buildings were destroyed and horses killed at Orr Family Farm. Two storage tanks estimated to weigh approximately 10 tons were lifted from Orr Family Farm and landed about one-half mile east.

Moving east, the tornado destroyed much of Briarwood Elementary School, where the NWS storm survey team rated damage as EF-5. Despite the destruction of this elementary school during school hours, no fatalities occurred at the school. As the tornado continued to move east and east-northeast, it moved through much more densely populated suburban neighborhoods of southwest Oklahoma City and Moore where violent destruction was widespread.

The width of EF-4 and greater damage was up to 250 yards wide as the tornado moved through neighborhoods east of Western Avenue. The first two fatalities occurred in a house in the neighborhood just east of Briarwood Elementary, with another fatality in a house as the tornado approached Santa Fe Avenue.

After crossing Santa Fe Avenue, the tornado moved through more suburban neighborhoods and toward Plaza Towers Elementary School. Damage to the school was extensive and seven children were killed when a wall collapsed at the school. Nine other people were killed in eight different neighborhood homes within one-quarter mile of Plaza Towers Elementary, most occurring just south of the school.

The tornado turned northeast as it approached Telephone Road, made a loop near the intersection of Telephone Road and 4th Street, then moved southeast crossing the interstate. Three people were killed when a convenience store along Telephone Road was destroyed. Crossing Telephone Road, the tornado inflicted significant damage to the Moore Medical Center, a post office and numerous businesses along Telephone Road and U.S. Interstate Highway 35.

Although the tornado was more narrow after crossing I-35, it continued to produce EF-4 damage in neighborhoods east of the interstate as it curved east and then again east-northeast. One fatality occurred at a business just east of the interstate, and one final fatality occurred in a home between Eastern Avenue and Bryant Avenue. Consistent EF-4 damage continued until the tornado passed SE 4th Street just east of Bryant Avenue.

Moving east from Bryant Avenue, the tornado continued to produce EF-2 damage with isolated EF-4 damage noted. The density of housing also decreased east of Bryant as the tornado moved east and east-northeast before dissipating at 2:35 PM CST east of Air Depot Blvd. between SE 119th Street and SE 134th Street in southeast Oklahoma City. Overall, over 300 homes experienced EF-4/EF-5 damage along the tornado path.

EF Scale Map

Below is a map with the preliminary damage path of the Newcastle-South OKC-Moore tornado. Contours delineate the extent of EF-0 (light blue), EF-1 (green), EF-2 (yellow), EF-3 (orange), EF-4 (red), and EF-5 (purple) damage from the survey.


View May 20, 2013 Newcastle-South OKC-Moore EF-5 Tornado in a larger map

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