The staggering power of the Oklahoma tornado revealed as picture shows TEN TON water tank hurled like a toy over half-a-mile
By James Nye
PUBLISHED: 16:00 EST, 23 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:00 EST, 23 May 2013
The awesome power of Monday's Oklahoma tornado is laid bare by this image of a 10 ton water tank lying in debris after being picked up and flung half-a-mile by the twister.
The tank was uprooted from its static position out of the Orr Family Farm, passing over the Briarwood Elementary School where hundreds of students huddled in fear and then into a suburban backyard.
Confirmed as an E-F5 tornado, the twister that struck Moore swirled with winds in excess of 200 mph as it leveled almost the entire suburb of Oklahoma City.
Photographed by storm chaser Gabriel Garfield, the astounding image illustrates the strength of the deadly twister, but also how close more came to perishing in the storm.
This 10-ton water tank was lifted off a farm in Moore, Oklahoma, by the enormous E-F5 tornado that struck on Monday and devastated the community
Spokeswoman Keli Pirtle said Tuesday the agency upgraded the tornado from an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale to an EF-5 based on what a damage assessment team saw on the ground. The weather service uses the word 'incredible' to describe the power of EF-5 storms.
The weather service says the tornado's path was 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
Unlike hurricanes, which forecasters can fly through in planes and monitor with buoys and weather stations, usually over a period of days, tornadoes form quickly and normally last only a matter of minutes.
On Monday, the moist energy came up from the Gulf of Mexico, the wind shear from the jet stream plunging from Canada. 'Where they met is where the Moore storm got started,' Brooks said.
With the third strong storm hitting Moore in 14 years -- and following roughly the same path as an EF5 that killed 40 people in 1999 and an EF4 that injured 45 others in 2003 -- some people are wondering why Moore?
It's a combination of geography, meteorology and lots of bad luck, experts said.
According to CIMM meteorologist Gabe Garfield, this map shows the original location of the tank that was picked up from the Orr Family Farm and dropped east of Briarwood Elementary
If you look at the climate history of tornadoes in May, you will see they cluster in a spot, maybe 100 miles wide, in central Oklahoma, Houston said. That's where the weather conditions of warm, moist air and strong wind shear needed for tornadoes combine, in just the right balance.
'Central Oklahoma is a hot spot and there's a good reason for it,' Houston said. 'There's this perfect combination where the jet stream is strong, the instability is large and the typical position for this juxtaposition climatologically is central Oklahoma.'
And the timing has to be perfect. Earlier in the year, there's not enough warm moist air, but the jet stream is stronger. Later, the jet stream is weaker but the air is moister and warmer.
The hot spot is more than just the city of Moore. Several meteorologists offer the same explanation for why that Oklahoma City suburb seemed to be hit repeatedly by violent tornadoes: Bad luck.
Monster: Aerial image released by the Oklahoma National Guard showing tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma, USA, 21 May 2013
The town was hit by a tornado on 20 May killing at least 24 people including seven children in one school
Of the 60 EF5 tornadoes since 1950, Oklahoma and Alabama have been struck the most, seven times each.
More than half of these top-of-the-scale twisters are in just five states: Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Kansas, and Iowa. Less than 1 percent of all U .S. tornadoes are this violent -- only about 10 a year, Brooks said.
The United States' Great Plains is the 'best place on Earth' for the formation of violent tornadoes because of geography, Markowski said.
You need the low pressure systems coming down off the Rocky Mountains colliding with the warm moist unstable air coming north from the Gulf of Mexico.
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