Today, a two mile wide tornado touched down just south of Oklahoma City and remained on the ground for nearly an hour. Early reports indicated massive damage with entire neighborhoods reduced to nothing but flinders and at least one local elementary school destroyed. Over 62 people are reported to have suffered injuries with 10 fatalities reported so far.
Initial reports showed the Moore Tornado reaching at least EF4 strength with on the ground assessments likely to upgrade the tornado to an EF5. EF5 is the most powerful rating for tornadoes on the Fujitsu scale. Radar showed a one mile wide tornado wrapped in a two-mile wide debris field remaining on the ground for an extended period of time. Both the size and duration of this event is practically unprecedented in modern meteorology with few events that are easily comparable.
The Moore Tornado was so powerful it flung debris up to 100 miles away. Light debris fall was reported as far away as Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It is likely that damage from the Moore Tornado will exceed 1 billion dollars, ranking it among the top five most damaging tornadoes ever recorded in the United States and being the second tornado in three years to wreck such major damage. Early indications are too premature to determine whether damage from this tornado will exceed that of the 2011 Joplin tornado, which resulted in 2.8 billion in damages — the costliest tornado on record in the US.
Many meteorologists will claim that no one storm is attributable to climate change. That said, the results of climate change — increasing air and water temperatures, increasing atmospheric water vapor, and strange changes to the polar jet stream — make it more likely that severe weather will occur and that severe events will be more powerful. Compared to the 20th century average, the past ten years have hosted twice the number of severe weather events overall.
Echoes of Joplin in an era of continuing severe weather…
(Note: The people suffering from this disaster are likely to need every kind of assistance available, so please think of them and donate generously to help. If you don’t have spare money and still wish to give assistance, please contact your representative in Congress and express your support for FEMA aid to the disaster victims. Also, many disaster relief agencies including the Red Cross and FEMA accept volunteer support during times such as these. In many cases, time and direct assistance is the best kind of aid a person can provide. So please take a moment to consider how you can help the disaster victims.)
51 now reported dead and at least 120 injured from this terrible tornado.
“Good” news and bad news. First the “good.” Officials reported Tuesday that the death toll has been reduced to 24 due to double counting. The number of injured, unfortunately, has now increased to 240, however.
For the bad news, Republicans are, just one day after the tornado, seeking to use disaster relief to the victims as a political football, holding funds hostage unless other programs (like medicare, social security, the sciences, and weather satellites used to provide advanced warning for storms like this one) are cut. Among them was Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn who pushed to reduce Hurricane Sandy aid last year. As usual, republicans have put their ideological special interests — primarily providing benefit to the wealthy to the harm of everyone else — before the well being of the American people.
Coburn should be on the ground pledging support to those who were hurt, lost family members or lost their homes, schools, and businesses. Instead, he remains in Washington pandering to his wealthiest donors by, once more, engaging in a game of legislative chicken and threatening to cut the resources needed to heal a gaping wound in the heart of his state. From the point of view of his constituents, many of whom now live in or near a disaster area, Coburn may as well be serving the interests of space aliens for all the good his actions do for the families he is supposed to represent.