El Reno, OK tornado becomes widest ever

The National Weather Service has confirmed, after a damage survey, that the tornado which struck El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st was an EF5 with radar measured winds of 296 miles per hour. Most notably, the tornado reached a maximum width of 2.6 miles, making it the widest tornado ever measured on earth. The wind speeds nearly set a record as well, falling just shy of the strongest winds recorded in a tornado (301 mph, Moore OK tornado in 1999 still maintains the record).

Initially rated an EF-3 on the new Enhanced Fujita Scale, which rates tornadoes from EF0 to EF5, the tornado was upgraded after mobile doppler radar data showed the intense wind speeds of near 300 miles per hour. The winds were measured on mobile doppler radars from two graduate students traveling with the University of Oklahoma. Tornado researcher Howard Bluestein, a professor at the University of Oklahoma put it simply when he said “This is the biggest ever” of the tornado.

Animation of radar data, captured every minute, from Phased Array Radar. Courtesy of Robin Tanamachi.

Four storm chasers were killed in the same tornado, which will certainly become one of the most historic ever for a multitude of reasons. Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, Carl Young, and Charles Henderson were killed while chasing the storm. Recently, high resolution radar imagery reveals an incredibly impressive structure while the tornado was on the ground, and a debris ball indicated — which takes a dramatic, sharp and sudden turn to the north to a point near where the four chasers were positioned.

For more information on the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado we suggest visiting the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma as well as other local news sources.