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Tornado, Moore, Oklahoma, 2013

On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma and surrounding areas causing 24 fatalities, including seven schoolchildren who were taking shelter in their designated tornado safety area at the Plaza Towers Elementary School.  Approximately 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including two elementary schools and the only hospital in the City of Moore.

At the time of the Newcastle-Moore tornado, NIST was nearing completion of its technical investigation of the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011.  The decision was made by NIST to conduct a Preliminary Reconnaissance of the May 20, 2013 Newcastle-Moore tornado, to identify any information that might be relevant to certain aspects of the Joplin tornado investigation. The objectives of the Newcastle-Moore Tornado Preliminary Reconnaissance were therefore limited to:

  1. Collect data and information on the performance of the emergency communications systems immediately prior to and during the tornado; and
  2. Collect data and information on the response of critical and educational facilities (specifically, the Moore Medical Center and Briarwood and Plaza Towers Elementary Schools) to the tornado, including emergency operations, the physical performance of the buildings and designated safe areas, and life safety outcomes.

The Preliminary Reconnaissance was conducted in cooperation with the NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory.  The team arrived in Moore on May 22, 2013, and collected data through May 24, 2013.  The reconnaissance team documented the physical damage to understand the performance of buildings and designated safe areas, as well as life safety outcomes. In addition, NIST interviewed first responders, emergency managers, National Weather Service meteorologists, teachers and staff at the elementary schools, staff from the Moore Medical Center, and others.

Details are available in the report, Preliminary Reconnaissance of the May 20, 2013, Newcastle-Moore Tornado in Oklahoma.

Observations from the preliminary reconnaissance of the Newcastle-Moore tornado support the recommendations made in the final report from the NIST technical investigation of the May 22, 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Information on the Joplin investigation and links to download that final report and other materials related to the investigation are available on the Joplin Tornado Study Page.

Collapsed gymnasium building. (Photo Credit: NIST)

Collapsed gymnasium building (Note the interior gymnasium office surrounded by a reinforced CMU wall remained standing).  Photo Credit: NIST

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Marc Levitan
marc.levitan@nist.gov