The tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday is being called the most destructive tornado in the world’s history.
The tornado struck at around 3 pm on Monday, cutting a path through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. Along the way, it destroyed homes and left at least 51 people dead.
Reports say the tornado was anywhere from one to two miles wide with winds at least 200 miles per hour. It leveled neighborhoods and two schools, with reports that between 20 and 30 mostly third-grade students killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
“Numerous neighborhoods completely leveled … neighborhoods just wiped clean,” said Sergeant Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department.
“Please send us your prayers,” said a representative from the Moore mayor’s office.
Early reports pegged the Moore tornado as an F4, the second-highest classification, but it is likely to be considered an F5 after an analysis of its path and destruction is completed.
Thought it may seem like a bit of hyperbole, the residents of Moore would be well-versed on the subject. The most powerful tornado ever recorded to date struck in Moore on May 3, 1999, cutting a nearly identical path to Monday’s tornado.
Residents in Moore and newscasters covering Monday’s devastation noted that the damage from this storm looks worse than the May 1999 tornado. They also said it looked worse than a tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, killing 162 people.
Early measures of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado put it at historic levels. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration lists historic tornadoes by size, duration ,and destruction. The Moore tornado does not rank largest in any single category, but it contained a combination of size, wind speed, and destruction not believed to be matched.
The sheer duration of Monday’s tornado gives a hint at its place in history. While the average tornado is on the ground for a few minutes, the Moore tornado touched down for for close to 40 minutes.