The last rite of Spring

From a day in May, fourteen years ago:

This tornado’s remarkable wind speed (at the high extreme of the Fujita Scale’s F5) led to much speculation that the scale would be modified to include an F6 category, due to the winds possibly exceeding 318 mph (512 km/h). This speculation ignored the fact that the Fujita scale measures damage rather than windspeed, since the scale was developed prior to the introduction of Doppler weather radar. Windspeed estimates associated with the different categories represent the speeds scientists believe are required to produce that damage rather than the windspeed in that particular storm. The damage caused by an F5-designated tornado leaves very little room for a higher category.

The Fujita scale has since been enhanced, and there’s no EF6. Maybe there should be. What I said about that earlier storm:

[T]he worst managed to stay to my south and west, though not very far. At its peak, the funnel was nearly a mile wide, and its easternmost flank ventured to within half a mile of this desk.

I have since moved about fifteen miles west. And they’re saying that today’s Cone of Destruction at some point was so wide that you might not recognize it as a tornado, were it coming right at you.

And if that earlier storm really was packing “the highest winds ever recorded near the earth’s surface” — what the hell did we just see?

Welcome to Tornado Alley. Please have exact change. And you will be changed. Count on it.

Update: NWS compares the track of the two storms.



  1. Moira Breen »

    20 May 2013 · 5:43 pm

    Charles – saw the news and came over. Hope you are safe and sound. Dear Lord. And I was irritated at having to spend 20 minutes in the basement last night when the sirens went off.

  2. CGHill »

    20 May 2013 · 5:49 pm

    “I’m cool, calm and collected,” he lied unconvincingly.

    I’m okay. Some people I know lived in the path of the storm, and are waiting to see if they still live there. (The area hit worst is pretty much blocked off for the duration.) A couple of grade schools were flattened; however, all the kids seem to be accounted for.

  3. Jeff Brokaw »

    20 May 2013 · 6:21 pm

    Prayers for the afflicted – but glad to hear you’re OK Chaz. Watching coverage on TV now – holy schnikees!

  4. Jeffro »

    20 May 2013 · 6:41 pm

    Glad to hear you are ok, Chaz. All “my” people are ok as well.

  5. CGHill »

    20 May 2013 · 7:08 pm

    It will get worse as time goes on. (Death tolls never decrease.) Right now, I’m keeping my thoughts skyward.

  6. Kirk »

    20 May 2013 · 8:09 pm

    Glad you are OK, Chaz. Prayers going up for all affected by this terrible storm.

  7. Roger Green »

    20 May 2013 · 9:08 pm

    My ex-wife was from Durant.
    37 dead in this storm, so far. Heavens (literally).

  8. Teresa »

    20 May 2013 · 9:55 pm

    I am so glad the storm missed you. I’m glad for everyone the storm missed. Huge natural disasters are almost too much to wrap our minds around.

    All I can do is send a donation (done) to Team Rubicon and hope they are able to help people get back on their feet.

  9. CGHill »

    20 May 2013 · 10:05 pm

    That’s about all any of us can do. A lot of ad hoc shelters have opened, and once the heavy equipment clears away the debris, we can start rebuilding.

    Yes, rebuilding. A lot of people who were hit today were also hit in ’99. Where can you go where there’s no weather? (There’s not enough room in San Diego, and besides: wildfires. Then again, we have those too.)

  10. jsallison »

    20 May 2013 · 11:26 pm

    I find it absolutely inconscionable that schools in tornado alley don’t have underground safe rooms. We’re not talking hi-tech here. A freaking reinforced hole in the ground with an exit not under the freaking building. There’s 24 DEAD 3RD graders because of these penny pinching bastardi.

    When I was a kid in upstate New York every school had a fallout shelter stocked with stuff to survive WWIII. WTF are the school boards in OK doing? The next dumbass teacher that spews at me about multi-media anything is so going to find out just how hard I can hit them, again and again and again…

    I”m paying extra to keep my granddaughter out of the clutches of these stupid public school bastards.

  11. Dick Stanley »

    21 May 2013 · 3:06 am

    Glad to hear you’re okay, Charles. We knew something was going to happen north of us around noon on Monday watching clouds over Austin racing north. They were really moving. Were hoping it was the start of a storm to bring us some rain. Had no idea, then, that the low was as far north as OK City.

  12. Tatyana »

    21 May 2013 · 6:35 am

    Shit. I just heard about it! That’s what happens when one is not watching TV news and gets away from computer for a few hrs.

    Chaz, I am so glad you are OK.
    May be it IS time to get the damn twitter.

  13. CGHill »

    21 May 2013 · 7:01 am

    Digging underground is problematic in these parts: the red clay and the water table conspire to undermine your building foundation.

  14. canadienne »

    21 May 2013 · 1:41 pm

    Relieved that you are safe. The tornado has been all over the news here.

  15. Dick Stanley »

    21 May 2013 · 9:11 pm

    Fortunately, this time at least, the death toll has decreased. Hope it stays that way.

  16. CGHill »

    21 May 2013 · 9:14 pm

    Well, it wouldn’t have if they’d counted correctly. Not that I’m complaining in the least.

    About a fifth of the Oklahoman’s front page today was devoted to this phrase in huge type: WORSE THAN MAY 3RD. Then again, they were also working with an inflated casualty count (51 at press time).

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