1999-05-03: Moore/OKC - May 3 outbreak

Discussion in '1990s' started by Rob Satkus, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. Rob Satkus

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    NWS OUN also has a page for the 10th anniversary of that event ( I can't believe that was ten years ago already!).
    http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/wxevents/19990503/anniversary.php

    There will also be a conference marking the event on May 1st in Norman, details are provided in the above link...attendance is free but you must register by April 29th.

    It was certainly a day I will never forget!

    Rob
     
  2. Chris Hayes

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    I remember that day well, and I was in Ohio and had never chased. I watched the event go down on my computer and on TWC when TWC actually covered the weather. Certainly a day I'll never forget either despite the fact I was 1000 miles away.
     
  3. Danny Neal

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    I was supposed to chase the from 4/30 to like 5/5 that year down in the plains. Sadly had to call off the trip due to the death of my grandfather. We booked the Super 8 in Moore, on I 35. I believe it was just South of the damage path of the F5. In Brian Stertz video of him going North on 35 he passes by the hotel we would have stayed, maybe a mile or two south of the damage path. It is impossible to guess where we would have been or what storm we would have intercepted, but looking back it is amazing to think what could have been. Instead, I too, watched the events on TWC in amazement. May 3rd has been an obsession of mine. I have tried to collect every web page, video, account I could find of this day just because it is such a facinating event to study.
     
  4. Tim Marshall

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    Ah, what a day

    May 3, 1999 was one of my top ten in my chase career and to think that I almost didn't chase it. There was dense cirrus overcast that morning and a broad slight risk area as there was no well defined focal point. A double dryline was being held back in west Texas due to an upper trough in the Rockies. That short wave appeared to be out-of-phase with the time of maximum heating. However, holes formed in the cirrus and an in-phase short wave appeared on later model runs. SPC upgraded to a MOD RISK at 1630 then HIGH RISK at 2000. I left my house at 2:45 pm and drove up to Wichita Falls. A storm formed west of Lawton and I chased it up I-44 to Moore, OK. A detailed account of this event has just been posted on my Facebook page.
     
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  5. Jeff House

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    I lived in Wichita, KS at the time and set off mid-afternoon. All I had to do was drive south on the Turnpike. I reached a supercell in Sumner County, a county south of Wichita, by late afternoon. Some of the front flank was over my driving path so I took some small hail and had to deal with some rain. Then I reached the clear inflow. Before all of the tragedy of the day it was quite a thrill to see a large tornado there. I should have just stayed on the shoulder of the Turnpike and observed, but got greedy wanted to be on side roads. By the time I reached the next available exit I was a bit out of position and the tornado seemed rain wrapped. While catching up on my way back I heard things take a sour turn on the radio as it went into populated areas of Haysville and Wichita. At that point I did not care to catch up anyway. Then I learned about OKC and Moore. Talk about a bittersweet day. The tornado chase was excellent until two cities were hit. Next morning the Wichita Eagle newspaper had a moving picture in the op-ed section showing OKC and Wichita shaking hands in unity.

    Picture is the tornado in Sumner County, well before reaching Haysville up in Sedgwick County.
     

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  6. Randall Marable

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    IMO, the only weather event in US history, or internationally, that owns a date. In other words, when you say May 3rd, everyone knows exactly what weather event you're talking about. There's no other weather event in history that owns a date exclusively. Many weather events have notorious titles and their respective dates are well known. However, none of them have exclusive rights over a date like this particular event.
     
  7. mikedeason

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    I think if you asked any average citizen outside of Oklahoma or the storm chasing community about May 3, 1999, most of them wouldn't have a clue what happened that day.. April 26, 1991 and April 3-4, 1974 would probably be better candidates for "owning a date."
     
  8. Shane Adams

    Shane Adams Guest

    Actually I tend to agree with the "May 3" owning the date thing. It's the only date in history I've ever heard where the year isn't needed to distinguish itself. There has never been an event that could match this one for pure intensity, number of tornadoes, geographical concentration into one area, and of course, newsworthiness and historical value. Plus it happened the bullseye of tornado alley.
     
  9. Greg McLaughlin

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    I agree that May 3rd is the most famous tornado event date. Like Shane mentioned, the media coverage and the intensity of the outbreak, not to mention a major suburb of a large city was devestated. makes this event really stand alone.
     
  10. mikedeason

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    Well, I can understand you guys feeling that way since ya'll were very close to the event. And I certainly rate it high as being one of the most significant weather events in our country's history, but somewhere after the 1974 Outbreak, The 1900 Galveston Hurricane and even Katrina.

    As I said, contrary to the original poster's assertion that "when you say May 3rd, everyone knows exactly what weather event you're talking about", outside of those close to the event and weather enthusiasts, May 3rd probably doesn't ring a bell with the average Joe.
     
  11. Kent Heiderich

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    I agree with Randal Marable that May 3, 1999 is explanitory in itself. I lived through that historic event and I see why other posters see other dates in history of "Great tornado outbreaks" equally as historic.
    For me this one was close to home as I have lived here all my life except for a brief 4 year period in the military. Most tornadoes in my 53 year life that effected someone I knew in Moore, OK. was a singular case, but the May3, 1999 tornado had 8 families on the list. What was weird was they not only sustained damage, but lost virtually everything they owned. One was my neice that lived at NE 14th & Santa Fe in Moore. She still had walls standing, but across the street to her north was all level of existing homes for a 3 block area.
    All have recovered their lives and are greatfull for that.
    I remember being 3 miles north from ground zero in a storm shelter and the ground was shaking like a small earthquake. Baseball size hail pounding the ground and the distant roar of Moore being torn apart. The smell of natural gas and a hot attic was all around. Hot attic being a fresh lumber/ insulation type of smell to the atmosphere.
    I've been looking for a video that shows a horizontal vortex from that tornado. It occured just east of it's I-35 crossing just south of 27th street in Moore. In many video's we see a white ball of light going around the rotation of the storm. I forget what that is called, but it does exist.
    Kent
    http://www.kfor.com/weather/mayfury/
     
  12. Angie Norris

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    I remember May 3 as well. I was watching the storms unfold on TWC (back in the good old days), thinking I had never seen such a monster before. IIRC, they were simulcasting Gary's coverage. What got my attention more than the tornado was the words "If you are not below ground, you will not survive." That gave me the chills.

    I think I agree with Mike. I don't really think if you said "What is significant about May 3?" to the general public outside of the Plains that most people would know (same with any of the big days). If they weren't directly affected, or know someone who was affected, they'd have no clue.
     
  13. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Guest

    There is very good coverage of the May 3 Oklahoma tornadoes at: http://newsok.com/may3

    I'm glad Jeff House posted on the Haysville, KS tornado that day. He was a meteorologist at WeatherData in 1999. Three of our employees' homes were damaged in that storm. All were working at the time and continued to do their work until their shifts ended as we were challenged just like the NWS.

    I often call Haysville the 'forgotten event' of that day. It was an F4 with 6 fatalities. Today's Wichita Eagle has no coverage of the 10th anniversary of Haysville..the front page story is the second anniversary of Greensburg.

    I have been disappointed at the lack of research on Haysville's tornado. It was an F-4 from a 'left mover' (compared to the Oklahoma storms) without a hook echo and from a non-standard supercell if, indeed, it was a supercell. I believe a significant research opportunity was lost.

    That said, the meteorological profession did a magnificent job in both Oklahoma and Kansas that day. We saved scores of lives.

    To elaborate on that point a bit, the Haysville tornado occurred after dark. The ICT WSR-88D was down for maintenance. There was no hook. So, the storm might have struck without warning. Prior to NEXRAD, a tornado like this would have killed well into the double, if not low triple, digits given the population density of Haysville and south Wichita.

    But, because of the efforts of NSSL and the research community; the NWS, DoD and FAA; and the private sector weather community to build the displays; we had the NEXRAD network. So, NWS meteorologists in Wichita were able to use the Vance DoD -88D to observe the rotational signature in the internal part of the storm and issue a highly effective warning. The local media did a terrific job and lives were saved.

    As we commemorate May 3 in Oklahoma and Kansas along with the more recent Greensburg event, we should take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for the differences we have made in so many lives.

    Mike
     
  14. Donald Giuliano

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    Although hardly universally true, I've been surprised time and again to find that random people I meet outside meteorology/the Plains while traveling are familiar with May 3rd. They often refer to it as "that May tornado" (or something similar, usually forgetting the exact date) and remark on how news channels were broadcasting the event live, even though they were living on the East/West Coast at the time. My suspicion, though, would be that May 3rd has been fading from the public consciousness for some time, and that Greensburg has since taken its place as the tornado outbreak the average person outside Oklahoma is most likely to recognize.
     
  15. Steve Miller

    Steve Miller Owner
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    For anyone interested, tonight Shane Adams will share his RAW video of his chase on May 3, 1999. You can view the video starting at 8pm CDT by clicking HERE. There will be an ongoing chat about the event, coinciding with Shane's video presentation at SpotterChat.
    The video will last approx 1.5 hrs and will be completely unedited. See you at 8pm!
     
  16. Shane Adams

    Shane Adams Guest

    Oh yeah I agree totally. I think the Super Outbreak of '74 will probably always be tops as far as overall tornado events. I was just speaking of chaseable, Plains region tornado events. I should've made that distinction in my original post.
     
  17. Donald Dudenhoeffer

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    dates to remember

    I do not mean to be stepping on feet or so on, but if we had all the ways and means that we have right now back on March 18, 1925,,, I really do feel that that would be the one etched into memory
     
  18. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Guest

    But, if the great Tri-State Tornado repeated itself today the death toll would be far, far smaller. While a tornado of that intensity and path-length would be notable to meteorologists it probably would not -- to the public-at-large -- have the significance one might think.
     
  19. Donald Dudenhoeffer

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    The only thing that the Tri-State Tornado missed was hitting St. Louis Straight on,,, the thing that {and sorry to say} that the issue with the Moore OK tornado was so close to the OKC downtown area, plus the media coverage...... Now, how many how of you would have ever heard of the Greensburg tornado if it {Greensburg, the town) would have never got hit directly??? True, some of us was covering both the Greensburg and Moore storms,,, but, my piont is, if we could of chased the 1925 storm, just what we be saying about it? It makes some interesting reading to do a search on that 1925 storm!!!!!
     
  20. STurner

    STurner EF2

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    I know quite a a bit about the Haysville F4 tornado because my step dad lost his house in this tornado. Yes, Mike I also feel that it is somewhat of a forgotten event from this deadly tornado outbreak. My step dad told me that the only thing that was left of some homes were concrete slabs and one had a refrigerator left standing on it. Even though this tornado was not as violent as the Bridge Creek/Moore/OKC tornado it could have been just as deadly had it had hit Wichita dead on. This tornado I believe was around a 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile-wide and could have killed well into the hundreds had there had been little or no warning as Mike stated.
     
  21. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith Guest

    Shane,
    Thanks for sharing your video this evening. First time I had seen it. I'm sure others appreciated it, as well.
    Mike
     
  22. Brian Stertz

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    May 3rd is certainly one of those historical events....considering all of the bad outbreaks to occur in Oklahoma history....this one is rated number 1 by the NWS Norman. This was not just the Bridge Creek-Moore-OKC F5...this was also the 2 mile wide near F5 near Crescent-Mulhall...a bad F4 that hit Dover...and the list goes on. The cyclical nature of the supercells this day was as prolific as I have seen in person. The grand-daddy of all outbreaks was the April 3, 1974 one but this ranks right up there in the top 10.

    Now this to this day ranks as my #1 chase of my career...not so much in the number of tornadoes seen...but to see both F5 cycles of the tornado on May 3rd makes this that rare chase. My May 3rd chase account is below:

    http://vortex-times.com/5399chase.htm
     
  23. Rich Thompson

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    3 May 99 was certainly a high-impact event socially and economically. Our collective memory of all tornado events is a function of where it occurs relative to where we were or live, and how it impacted us and those we know. There's no way to easily compare events, but 3 May 99 certainly stands up to other outbreaks. If you were stuck within the outbreak corridor (i.e. central OK), it was every bit as bad as any other event in the past century.

    This event had a bigger meteorological impact on me than many other events because it was unusual in many ways, yet prototypical in others. If anyone is really bored and wants some nighttime reading material, I think most of what we came up with still holds today:

    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0434/15/6/pdf/i1520-0434-15-6-682.pdf
     
  24. Randall Marable

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    I should have made this clear which I didn't make clear before is that when I said 'everyone knows exactly what weather event you're talking about', I was referring exclusively to the weather enthusiast community. Meaning, everyone in 'everyone who follows the weather on a daily basis' knows what you mean when you say May 3rd. I wasn't really referring to the individual in Vermont, Utah, or anywhere for that matter who couldn't tell you the difference between a Severe T-Storm Watch and a Severe T-Storm Warning. I guess I should have explained this much better initially.

    Shane that's the key to my observation and I probably should have explained this in more detail as well - It's the only weather event in history known exclusively by the Month and Day minus the year. I really thought hard about it and April 26, 1991 does come close except that you have to include 1991. You just can't say April 26th because it doesn't have the same impact. So in essence you're merely referring to the exact date of this event which is slightly different, but I'll admit by not very much. Though notorious and unprecedented in itself, April 3-4 is more known as the 'Super Outbreak'. Plus you have to include 1974 if you reference this event strictly by the date. However, normally you just can't say April 3rd, you have to say The Super Outbreak.

    You see Mike, though November 15th and April 8th will have a great deal of meaning for many people in Huntsville and Oak Grove, AL (and surrounding areas) respectively, if you merely state these dates to most weather enthisiasts outside of Alabama, even they will struggle in figuring out exactly what weather event you are referencing. However, you say May 3rd, in all likelihood you will not have this issue at all.

    Even the worse natural distaster in US history, Hurricane Katrina, is not known by its own date. Even many weather enthusiasts have to stop and think to remember exactly what day Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Likewise, even most weather enthusiast couldn't tell you what day the 1900 Galveston Hurricane made landfall. 'Storm of the Century', 'The Labor Day Hurricane', 'The Palm Sunday Outbreak', on and so forth. But depsite the magnitude of these 'notorious' weather events, none of them are referenced by merely a 'date' the way May 3rd is referenced.

    Let me also make this clear, I'm not ranking May 3rd at the top of some sort of All-Time Weather Event Countdown. I think some people may have the misperception that my post was meant to place May 3rd as some sort of top weather event of all-time. So I hope no one doesn't misconstrue that I was merely making an observation that in the first time in weather history, everyone (as in everyone in the weather community) references a weather event by just the month and the day of the event. Like I said before, it appears that this outbreak now owns this particular day. I wonder if anyone has thought to analyze why this is the case. ( Is it becuase this Oklahoma Outbreak included the first widely televised live F-5 tornado to make a direct strike on a densely populated area?) Usually notorious weather events obtain some sort of legendary historical title. However in this case, the Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak will always be known simply as May 3rd. At least that's how it appears to be at this time, though this may change many years down the road.
     
  25. Adam Lucio

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    I agree with Randall. Ive been following the weather since I was a kid and May 3rd is the only date without the year I can instantly associate the event with. Even our very own F5 here in Northeast Illinois [which also boasts a unique title as being the only August F5] I sometimes have to pause for a second while i recall the date.

    What a fascinating event. The videos Ive seen are some of the most intimidating storms that can be seen. Thanks to everyone who posted links in this thread, I got some new reading material for the off season, its all in folder on my browser!
     

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