El Reno - 5 Years Later

Posted by Christopher Poitras on Wednesday, May 30, 2018

File:El Reno, OK supercell from above 2013-05-31.jpg

Photo Credit: National Weather Service, a plane's view of the El Reno Oklahoma Tornado. 

“2.6 miles wide” “strongest tornado every recorded”, these are just some of the phrases that will be forever engraved in the minds of the citizens in El Reno, Oklahoma.  At 6:03 p.m. CDT, on May 31st 2013 the people of El Reno (Just west of Oklahoma City), ran to their tornado shelters/basements as they do every time they hear tornado sirens.  However, this was not a usual storm at all; this in its own right was a monster of a storm.  The tornado made a destruction path of 2.6 miles wide, in a 40 minute span, and with record wind speeds of 295 mph, or 475 km/h.  Yes, you heard that right the peak wind gust was measured at 475 km/h.  How can anyone survive this catastrophe? People ask.  Well fortunately, people listened to warnings, and there as a result there were lots of lives saved.  However, 8 people lost their lives that day, and 151 more were injured. 


What about storm chasers/storm spotters?  They must have all of the gear and abilities to escape imminent danger?  People ask.  Well yes, they are trained to get out of these situations, however just like playing with fire; your luck has to run out eventually, right? Three experienced storm chasers/research meteorologists lost their lives that fateful day.  Their names; Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young.  Not to be mistaken for adrenaline junkies like some storm chasers out there, these three were out to better understand the formation/direction/and wind speed of these powerful storms.  This research was ultimately to be used for longer warning times, and better built homes and or buildings, to save more lives in the wake of another Tornado catastrophe.   May 31st 2013 was just another regular day at work for these respected meteorologists, but it was anything but a regular day.  When the tornado unexpectedly changed direction towards them, they were unable to escape as their car was stuck on the clay road. 


Their team called Twistex, will always be remembered in the Meteorology/storm chasing community, for their efforts to try to better understand catastrophes like, ironically enough, the one that took their lives. 


The Team

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