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Oklahoma twister was so wide victims likely didn't recognize it - 2 1/2 miles wide

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Last week's deadly tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma, is now estimated to be the largest and most powerful on record. The tornado was rated as an EF5, covered an area that was a record 2.6 miles wide, and winds reached nearly 300 mph.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The National Weather Service provided the updates to the extreme weather event that occurred on May, 31 near Oklahoma City. The NWS said the twister was an EF5, officially up from an initial estimate of an EF3. Investigators concluded the tornado covered a path 2.6 miles wide and 16.2 miles long. Winds were officially calculated to be 295 mph.

Investigators say residents were lucky the tornado avoided populated areas. Despite this, it killed nineteen motorists when it reached Interstate 40 and caused additional flooding. Three of the deceased were veteran storm chasers.

The tornado was especially deadly because of its 2.6 mile-wide base.

"A 2 -mile wide tornado would not look like a tornado to a lot of people," Rick Smith, chief warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Norman. Smith explained that the tornado was so large it would look more like a cloud hanging low below the horizon, without a tapered funnel shape.

Had the same tornado struck Oklahoma City, the devastation would have been complete. Buildings in the tornado's path were swept entirely off their foundations. In a residential or business district, the storm would have annihilated untold numbers of structures and lives.

According to NOAA, May is a transitional time in Oklahoma with warm moist air colliding with cool, dry air from the arctic. Much of this activity is also propelled by the jet stream. This makes for violent weather over Oklahoma, which is also one of the most tornado-prone states in the country.

Last week, an extraordinarily unstable mass of air remained over Oklahoma for several days, and provided the fuel to spawn impressive tornadoes.

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