On May 20, 2013, one of the deadliest tornadoes in Oklahoma’s history raked a 14-mile path of destruction through the southern areas of Oklahoma City and decimated the city of Moore, causing $2 billion worth of damage. It flattened one elementary school, where no fatalities occurred, then hit another school, where a wall collapsed and killed seven children. The Moore, Oklahoma, tornado was categorized as an EF5, a rare twister packing estimated wind speeds greater than 200 mph. It killed 24 people and created a swath of destruction, including 300 demolished homes.
Less than two weeks later, the largest ever-recorded tornado — coupled with severe rain and flooding — struck central Oklahoma and caused further damage and loss of life, killing nine during the tornado and 14 people in the flooding.
Brief history of Oklahoma tornadoes
Oklahoma typically experiences around 60 tornadoes a year. It is part of Tornado Alley, a nickname for an area in the southern plains of the central United States, where tornadoes are common. Most tornadoes, about 77%, don’t cause death or widespread damage. On occasion, the strongest tornadoes strike heavily populated areas and wreak devastating destruction.
1947: The deadliest tornado in Oklahoma’s history struck on April 9, 1947, killing 116 people and injuring 782 after killing at least 69 people in Texas.
1999: On May 3, 1999, a series of nearly 60 tornadoes struck central Oklahoma within 24 hours, largely in the southern metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City, including Moore. One of these, the Bridge Creek–Moore tornado, killed 36 people, destroyed 1,800 homes, and damaged another 2,500 homes.
May 20, 2013: The 2013 Moore tornado followed a path similar to that of the 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore twister. After three days of severe weather, several supercell thunderstorms developed. One of these produced a tornado that touched down in Newcastle and rapidly turned violent. For 40 minutes, the tornado tracked a devastating path through Newcastle, Moore, and southern Oklahoma City, damaging two schools, destroying 300 homes, and claiming 24 lives.
May 31, 2013: Additional tornadoes hit central Oklahoma, including the largest ever recorded tornado — the El Reno tornado, which stretched 2.6 miles wide and killed nine people. This tornado stirred up accompanying tornadoes and storms that caused flash flooding, killing 14 people around Oklahoma City and compounding recovery efforts.
FAQs: What you need to know about the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, tornado
Explore frequently asked questions about the deadly tornado, and learn how you can help people affected by similar disasters in the U.S.
- Fast facts: The 2013 EF5 Moore tornado
- How and where did the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado start?
- How much damage did the Moore tornado cause? How many people died?
- What was the El Reno tornado?
- How can I help people affected by disasters in the U.S.?
- How did World Vision respond to the 2013 Oklahoma tornado?
Fast facts: The 2013 EF5 Moore tornado
- Touched down in Newcastle, near Oklahoma City, at 2:56 p.m. on May 20, 2013
- Traveled 14 miles, mostly through the densely populated city of Moore, Oklahoma
- Spanned 1.1 miles in width
- Lasted 40 minutes
- Killed 24 people
- Completely destroyed 300 homes
- Caused $2 billion worth of damage
How and where did the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado start?
Two days of storms turned into several supercell thunderstorms. One of these thunderstorms with strong updraft winds soon turned into a tornado that first touched down in Newcastle.
How much damage did the Moore tornado cause? How many people died?
The Moore tornado caused $2 billion worth of damage in the city of Moore and killed 24 people. It wreaked major destruction on two schools and 300 homes.
What was the El Reno tornado?
Only 11 days after the EF5 Moore tornado, the El Reno tornado, measuring 2.6 miles wide, struck central Oklahoma. It was categorized as an EF3, but its width was the largest ever recorded. It killed nine people in their cars and caused widespread flash flooding that killed 14 more. This flooding also hampered relief efforts in Moore, Oklahoma, and caused additional damage.
How can I help people affected by disasters in the U.S.?
- Pray for children and families impacted by disasters.
- Give to provide life-saving aid and relief supplies to survivors of U.S. disasters like the devastating Moore tornado.
- Volunteer to help World Vision respond to disasters or assist communities in the U.S. with disaster preparedness.
How did World Vision respond to the 2013 Oklahoma tornado?
Within 24 hours of the deadly tornado on May 20, 2013, World Vision staff arrived in Moore, Oklahoma, with a 53-foot trailer carrying emergency supplies, including food kits, hygiene kits, diapers, blankets, cleaning supplies, and tarps.
Within weeks, World Vision was working with local partners, including churches and schools, to provide school supplies and other essentials — clothes, shoes, toys, and household goods — to help families begin to return to normalcy.
Soon after that, World Vision brought building materials — roofing materials, insulation, faucets, and more — to local partners to help the most vulnerable families rebuild their homes. Altogether, more than 15,500 people benefited from World Vision’s assistance.