Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (2024)

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (1)

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Remembering the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013

FOX Weather looks back at the devastating EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013.

MOORE, Okla. – Monday marked 11 years since a catastrophic EF-5 tornado was last documented in the U.S., continuing what is already the longest span between "5-rated" twisters in historical records dating to 1950.

The nation's last EF-5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013.

The previous record spanned nearly eight years to the day, between the F-5 twister that tore through Moore and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on May 3, 1999, and the EF-5 tornado that nearly wiped out the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, on May 4, 2007. (The original Fujita Scale was updated to the Enhanced Fujita Scale and implemented in the U.S. on Feb. 1, 2007.)

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Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (2)

Catastrophic damage is photographed in the days following the May 20, 2013, EF-5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma.

(Doug Speheger / NWS Norman, Oklahoma)

EF-5 tornadoes are among the rarest cyclones on the planet. In the U.S., there have been only 59 EF-5 twisters since 1950, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC). That works out to an average of less than one EF-5 tornado in America each year. However, some years have reported multiple tornadoes of this intensity while there have also been multiyear stretches without a single 5-rated twister, such as the current streak of 11 years.

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An EF-5/F-5 tornado has been documented in 19 states, ranging from as far north as Fargo, North Dakota, to as far south as Central Texas and as far east as Ohio near its border with Pennsylvania.

Alabama and Oklahoma have recorded the greatest number of tornadoes with a rating of 5 on the Fujita/Enhanced Fujita Scale, each with seven such twisters since 1950. Iowa, Kansas and Texas have each seen six EF-5/F-5 tornadoes.

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (3)

Each placemark denotes the location of a tornado that received a rating of EF-5/F-5 on the Fujita/Enhanced Fujita Scale. Only 59 twisters have been rated this intensity since 1950.

(FOX Weather)

Leading the way with the most EF-5/F-5 tornadoes in a single year is 1974 when seven such twisters were reported during the Super Outbreak of April 3. Among that day's 5-rated tornadoes, three struck Alabama, two hit Ohio, and Indiana and Kentucky each saw one.

Just over 37 years later, six EF-5/F-5 twisters touched down in the spring of 2011. Four occurred during the April 27 Super Outbreak in Alabama and Mississippi, each reporting two EF-5 tornadoes that day. The year's other two EF-5s struck Joplin, Missouri, and El Reno/Piedmont, Oklahoma, on May 22 and 24, respectively.

HOW DOES A TORNADO OUTBREAK HAPPEN?

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (4)

A Family Dollar and a Piggly Wiggly supermarket were destroyed by the Hackleburg, Mississippi, EF-5 tornado on April 27, 2011.

(NWS Birmingham, Alabama)

Any twister can turn deadly if people in its way are caught unprepared. However, those rated a 4 or a 5 on the Fujita/Enhanced Fujita Scale have historically killed the greatest number of people. In fact, 51% of all tornado deaths over the 22-year period from 2000 through 2021 were caused by EF-4 or EF-5 twisters, according to data from the SPC. The remaining 49% of the deaths were from tornadoes rated EF-0 to EF-3.

All 15 tornadoes in U.S. history that were blamed for 100 or more deaths received a rating of EF-4/F-4 or EF-5/F-5, according to the SPC.

How does a tornado receive an EF-5 rating?

A tornado is assigned a rating from 0 to 5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale to estimate its intensity in terms of damage and destruction caused along the twister’s path.

HOW ARE TORNADOES RATED? THE ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE EXPLAINED

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service conduct storm surveys in the days following suspected tornadoes and estimate wind speeds based on the damage they observe while out in the field, using the criteria from the Enhanced Fujita Scale for guidance.

Measuring actual wind speeds inside twisters is a difficult feat because any weather instruments placed in their path are likely to be destroyed.

In order for a tornado to receive an EF-5 rating, the NWS says the damage must be catastrophic. Winds in an EF-5 twister are greater than 200 mph.

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (5)

Catastrophic damage is photographed in the days following the May 3, 1999, F-5 tornado that struck Moore and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

(NWS Norman, Oklahoma)

WHEN IS AMERICA'S MOST ACTIVE TIME OF YEAR FOR TORNADOES?

EF-5 tornadoes will destroy well-built frame houses and sweep their foundations clean of debris. In addition, steel-reinforced concrete structures will be critically damaged, and tall buildings will collapse or have severe structural deformations. Cars, trucks and trains can even be tossed to about 1 mile away.

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one (2024)

FAQs

Record EF-5 tornado drought extended as US marks 11 years since last one? ›

On May 20, 2013, an extremely powerful tornado destroyed a huge part of Moore, Oklahoma. Eleven years later, it remains the most recent tornado to be rated EF5, the strongest possible rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The 11-year gap is the longest since official U.S. records began in 1950.

When was the last EF-5 tornado? ›

The nation's last EF-5 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013.

What was the largest F5 tornado ever recorded? ›

During the F5 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado on May 3, 1999, in the southern Oklahoma City metro area, a Doppler on Wheels situated near the tornado measured winds of 301 ± 20 mph (484 ± 32 km/h) momentarily in a small area inside the funnel approximately 100 m (330 ft) above ground level.

How many F5 tornadoes are in US history? ›

Of the 59 tornadoes in the United States, 50 are officially rated F5 on the original Fujita scale (with dates of occurrence between May 11, 1953, and May 3, 1999), and nine are officially rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale (with dates of occurrence between May 4, 2007, and May 20, 2013).

What percentage of US tornadoes reach EF5 status each year? ›

The remaining small percentage of tornadoes are categorized as violent (EF3 and above). Of these violent twisters, only a few (0.1 percent of all tornadoes) achieve EF5 status, with estimated winds over 200 mph and nearly complete destruction.

Which state has the most EF5 tornadoes? ›

The state with the highest number of F5 and EF5 tornadoes per square mile, however, was Iowa. The state with the most number of tornadoes classified as "violent", or F4 and F5, is Kentucky, and the state with the highest average intensity ranking for tornadoes is Alabama.

Why hasn't there been an EF5 tornado since 2013? ›

It is possible that a violent tornado of such strength occurred over an empty field or rural area, but didn't leave enough structural damage for an EF-5 rating. Some scientists suggest that the tornado drought is due to short-term weather patterns or climate change.

What is the longest EF5 tornado drought? ›

On May 20, 2013, an extremely powerful tornado destroyed a huge part of Moore, Oklahoma. Eleven years later, it remains the most recent tornado to be rated EF5, the strongest possible rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The 11-year gap is the longest since official U.S. records began in 1950.

How rare is an EF-5 tornado? ›

Less than 0.1% of tornadoes attained the highest, most intense tornado rating. The most recent EF-5 occurred on May 20, 2013, in Moore, Oklahoma. Climatologically speaking, May is the most active month for tornadoes, but tornadoes can occur any time of year.

What was the only F6 tornado? ›

The F6 tornado of Xenia, Ohio in 1974

Fujita made an F6 category for what he considered to be an “inconceivable tornado.” Well, on April 3, 1974 the inconceivable happened when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded destroyed the town of Xenia, Ohio. Picture of the tornado that hit Xenia, Ohio on April 3, 1974.

Has there ever been an EF6 tornado? ›

Answer and Explanation: There is no EF6 classification on the Enhanced Fujita Scale for tornado intensity because the EF5 category includes all tornadoes with a wind speed of 200 miles per hour or greater. The decision not to create a higher category is based on two reasons.

Has there ever been an F12 tornado? ›

Though the F scale actually peaked at F12 (Mach 1), only F1 through F5 were used in practice, with F0 attached for tornadoes of winds weaker than hurricane force.

What was the last EF 5 tornado? ›

As of 2024, the 2013 Moore tornado is the most recent tornado to be rated EF5.

Are tornadoes getting weaker? ›

So we are seeing more weak tornadoes. But when you take away those weak, short-lived events that don't cause much damage, we really haven't seen much of a change in terms of wind tornadoes and how many occur in a given year.

Can an F5 tornado destroy a skyscraper? ›

Wind speed alone is not enough to determine the intensity of a tornado. An EF0 tornado may damage trees and peel some shingles off roofs, while an EF5 tornado can rip well-anchored homes off their foundations, leaving them bare— even deforming large skyscrapers.

What state has never had a tornado? ›

All US States have experienced tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. The State with the fewest tornadoes reported is Alaska. Only four tornadoes have been reported there since 1950. On the other end of the spectrum lay Texas and Kansas.

Where is Tornado Alley in 2024? ›

Where tornadoes have been reported. "Tornado Alley" has sprung back to life, with the majority of tornadoes erupting in central U.S. states which include: Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Is the Tornado Alley shifting? ›

Tornado activity is now much more likely to impact the Midwest and Southeast, the study said. The shift has been ongoing since 1951, according to the study, which used information from two different datasets, each spanning 35 years, to determine where and when tornadoes have been forming.

What was the worst tornado in history? ›

The Tri-State Tornado is the deadliest and longest-lasting tornado on record in the United States. In its record three-and-a-half-hour spree across Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois, the tornado killed nearly 700 people, destroyed 15,000 homes, and obliterated town after town.

Has there ever been an F5 tornado in Florida? ›

No F5 tornado has occurred in Florida. This F5 damage was from the Moore, Oklahoma tornado of May 3, 1999.

Will there ever be another EF5 tornado? ›

It's looking quite possible that the record EF5 “drought” will go past the 10-year mark. Upper-level winds are predicted to be on the weak side and/or displaced from unstable surface air through at least mid-May 2023, which should keep tornado activity at a relatively low ebb.

Has there ever been a F6 tornado? ›

In total, two tornadoes received the rating of F6, but both were later downgraded to F5. Based on aerial photographs of the damage it caused, Fujita assigned the strongest tornado of the 1974 Super Outbreak, which affected Xenia, Ohio, a preliminary rating of F6 intensity ± 1 scale.

How often do EF5 tornadoes occur? ›

Only about 0.06% of all tornadoes are classified as F5 or EF5. That's about one tornado out of every 1,666.

Has there ever been an EF 6 tornado? ›

There has never been an (E)F-6 tornado recorded, but they're technically not impossible. An F-6 tornado would need to reach wind speeds beyond 318 mph; however, the highest wind speeds ever recorded on Earth were 302 mph.

When was the last Category 6 tornado? ›

The F6 tornado of Xenia, Ohio in 1974

Fujita made an F6 category for what he considered to be an “inconceivable tornado.” Well, on April 3, 1974 the inconceivable happened when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded destroyed the town of Xenia, Ohio. Picture of the tornado that hit Xenia, Ohio on April 3, 1974.

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