Moore, OK Tornado Recap and Berkley, MI Tornado Saftey

By: wxchaser97 , 3:57 AM GMT on May 25, 2013

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On Monday May 20th, 2013, Moore, Oklahoma got hit, once again, by a violent tornado. This tornado has been rated an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita(EF) scale. Winds were estimated to be up to 210mph at the peak. Lots of houses and business were destroyed, including two schools with more building damaged. Damage is estimated to be around $2 billion, making this the 3rd costliest tornado on record. Twenty four people, including ten children, where killed by this tornado, with hundreds more injured. Most of the children that passed died in an elementary school, more on that later. The death toll would've been higher if it weren't for the advanced warning lead times, storm spotters/chaser, time of day, and exact track of the tornado. The 2013 Moore tornado will be remembered for a very long time.

May 20th was expected to be another bad day for tornadoes. The prior two days both had violent tornadoes, an EF-4 in Rozel, KS on May 18th and an EF-4 in Shawnee, OK on May 19th. On the 20th, the atmosphere was once again primed for the severe weather outbreak to continue. There were good amounts of CAPE, shear, moister, etc, which meant severe weather was likely. Boundaries left from previous storms were one trigger that initiated storms. A cold front and a dry line also triggered storms. During the afternoon hours, supercell thunderstorms formed. These cells would be responsible for the tornadoes in the south-central plains. One cell was aimed right at the Oklahoma City(OKC) metro area. This supercell strengthened under great conditions. At about 2:45pm CDT, a tornado touched down near Newcastle, OK, a tornado warning was issued 5 minutes earlier. As it moved northwest, the tornado rapidly intensified from an EF-0 to an EF-4. A tornado emergency was then issued for Moore and south OKC. It is ironic that the first tornado emergency ever issued happened for the exact same area in 1999. Then, a large F5 tornado hit Bridge Creek, Moore, and south OKC. That one killed 36 people and caused $1.4 billion dollars in damage. The 1999 and 2013 tornadoes are comparable in size, strength, path, and damage. Anyway, after the emergency was issued the tornado continued to track toward Moore and strengthen. It hit the city with devastating results. The worst damage occurred near the Briarwoord Elementary School. The tornado continued on and dissipated rapidly several miles east of Moore. Other cells brought rain and wind to Moore after the tornado. This was luckily the only violent tornado on the 20th. A radar loop of the tornado and a video of the tornado can be found below. Credit goes to NWS Norman for the radar and TVNWeather for the video.



Two schools were hit in the Moore area, Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary. Major damage occurred at both schools with them basically being totally destroyed. While Briarwood didn't get injuries/deaths, Plaza Towers did. Seven kids died and more staff and students where injured when the tornado struck. This got me thinking, how safe are my own schools? Southeast Michigan(SE MI) has seen violent tornadoes in the past. The last EF4/F4 to impact SE MI was in 1976 when a F4 tornado hit Bloomfield Hills and West Bloomfield. That tornado killed one, injured 55, and caused $55 million in 1976 USD. That tornado was bad, but it could've been a lot worse. The NWS did a "what if" situation on if an EF-5 tracked through Metro Detroit. It is estimated that billions of dollars in damage would be done, tens of thousands of buildings affected, and deaths/injuries would occur. This is the projected path of the hypothetical tornado. If you push that track about a mile or two north it is fully impacting Berkley. The city would be in for its largest and worst disaster ever, most likely with injuries and unfortunately possibly deaths. Neighborhoods would be gone, business destroyed if an EF-5 hit us. School building could also be hit, doing tremendous damage to the older infrastructure. There are some fatal flaws in the school's tornado preparedness plans, and they need to be fixed before a tornado strikes.

Today, Friday May, 24th, 2013, I talked to the administrators at two schools today, a middle school(Anderson Middle School) and the high school(Berkley High School). Both of these have tornado plans already. They are both also decided on by someone higher up in the school district. As for the schools themselves, they are both 2 story buildings and they are both aging. Construction on both of them was most likely in the middle of the 1900s(1940s-1960s). This means that they aren't built up to the latest MI building codes and aren't as strong as they could be. Yes I know there is maintenance to make them as good as possible but they just aren't perfect. This means that the buildings are more prone to damage from destructive winds. They won't be torn down and rebuilt for a long while due to the cost. The aging infrastructure problem isn't something that can be taken care of as easily as other things.

What both the middle school and high school also have in common is there tornado action plans. What we do when we have a tornado drill(which is that much, more on that later) is there is an audible alarm that goes off. We "calmly" get up and go into our respected hallways. We then line up single file against the lockers and cover the back over our head and neck with our hands. For the few drills, we do this for a few minutes and then go back to class. For a real tornado we would, hopefully, do it until the danger has passed. The big problem is, though, where they place of us. If you have a class that is up stair, chances are you will remain upstairs in the warning and drill situation, as pointed out in their plan. Also, some kids are in the collaborative center if it is needed (there are lots of windows surrounding most of it making shelter stupid). These two things are unacceptable Berkley! In a separate letter today about a stranger danger, they said student safety is their "number one priority". Well Berkley Schools, explain to me why you put student's lives at a higher risk by placing them in unsafe areas. Some places students are sheltered are too risky and if a tornado hits they would be at greater risk for injury and sadly death. The middle school isn't much different. I was told that during tornado drills/warnings kids and teachers are on the second floor. Whatever happened to being on the lowest floor of a sturdy building? There is no excuse for them being there. The principle, who I am friends with, knows it too. He can't do too much though. He said that for the plan to change it requires a team of experts coming in and determining what areas are safe and not safe and what practices are safer. It also take action from the board office, not the individual school administrators (Principals / vice principals). I just hope that this will get fixed soon as it is not smart to be on the second story of a building during a tornado.

Sadly, that is not the only problem in their plan. We don't do enough drills. I have a hard time remembering the 1 drill that we probably did at the beginning of the year. When I ask my sister she has a hard time remembering when the middle school did their last drill. Well that right there is a problem. When the real tornado is headed toward us, we need to know what to do, and fast. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. Since we don't do enough practice, we certainly aren't perfect. There could be panic and chaos since we might not remember what to exactly do. I know nothing is absolutely perfect, but if there is a good amount of practice everything can go closer to plan. Once we get to our areas, we crouch down single file against the lockers/walls and put two hands over our head and neck. I don't mind everything but the two hands thing. I feel that there isn't enough coverage/strength with just two hands protecting your head and neck. The best option would be for, when a tornado warning is issued, for everyone to be wearing a helmet for protection from flying/falling debris. I am smart enough to know that this is pretty impracticable, but something more than just two hands is a good idea.

I've gone through and mentioned the problems I have with the tornado plans for AMS and BHS. However, it is one thing to just point out the problems, and another thing to point out the problems and add solutions. First, on the images below the X out areas are do not shelter areas, the red dotted lines are do not shelter on 2nd floor, and the green lines are clear to shelter. I made it where large, open spaces with windows (gyms, auditoriums, etc) are non-shelter areas. These places usually have more rood for debris to fly around and more windows to break and allow destructive winds to come in and do damage. Just watch the Henryville gym and Joplin East Middle School being destroyed on security cameras . If anyone was in those buildings, luckily there weren't, they would've been injured or killed by flying debris. This is exactly why large spaces/rooms have been eliminated. Next, I have gotten rid of everyone on the second floor. They must be taking shelter on the first floor. The NWS says to always be on the lowest level of a study building during a tornado, it decreases the chances of being in the highest winds. There will be some space issues at first, but that can be addressed. Maybe having students line up double or triple file will fit everyone. As long as there is a big enough path for adults/students to walk through in the middle of the halls doubling or tripling up is fine. Another thing we need is more practice. I recommend that all of Berkley schools do 4 tornado drills per year, one at the start of every term. This way we get efficient in the process and we know exactly what to do without chaos when a real tornado is headed toward us. We also need to take these drills more seriously. Some people think it is just a waste of time or an excuse to get out of class for a bit. If we got a tornado, I hope those people were paying attention as to what to do or they might not be lucky. While this is less important than the two things above, I do recommend that we cover our head and neck with two arms, not hands. This gives more coverage area and the arms are a little stronger than the hands. Still, covering with the hands is way better than no protection. I'm just being a little nitpick there. I would like to see these thing implemented before the start of the 2013-2014 school year. A good resource for more info is this NWS school safety pdf. It goes over what I said and more.

Middle school:


High school:


I hope the Berkley School District gets to read this and revise their tornado plans. This is to make Berkley a severe weather ready district. I can help out with anything that is needed. I also know people that can help make sure things are done right (National Weather Service meteorologists). Thank you for reading this and have a good day/night.

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19. Barefootontherocks
3:58 PM GMT on May 26, 2013
Quoting wxchaser97:


Thank you for taking the time to write something. Also thanks for the clarification on the number of deaths at Plaza Towers. I wish a speedy recovery to all areas affected by tornadoes over the past few days. I'm most likely going to be sending this to the school district and maybe even the local news. Once again, thank you.
Thanks for your response.

I must make a correction to my comment 9. That is, if this news account is correct. More correct than my assumption probably, as mine was made by reading the list of victims. Sounds like all at the demolished day care center survived.

"Among the dead were 10 children, including two sisters pulled by the strong winds out of their mother's grasp, an infant who died along with his mother trying to ride out the storm in a convenience store and seven students at Plaza Towers Elementary School."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/05/26/obama-t ouring-oklahoma-tornado-response/#ixzz2UPjhLnuY
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 157 Comments: 19230
18. TomTaylor
11:13 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Nice blog Isaac. Hope you can get something done about this.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
17. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
7:15 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
wxchaser97 has created a new entry.
16. Astrometeor
6:30 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting weatherh98:
I've gone through warnings at my school a couple of times, we usually just sit there on our phones (I'm looking at weather stuff to make sure it isn't a real tornado)

For example this year, on a tornado warned cell, we sat on the 3rd story of a building. Not good. I knew obviously there was no tornado, but the rotation passed almost directly over my location. Had there been a stronger rotation I probably would've ran down the stairs and gone under the stairwell on the first floor (of course the teachers who know next to nothing about weather probably would've given me a detention)

That also brings up another point in that most educators don't know how to recognize severe weather events, so when it happens they are completely in the dark and don't know what's happening when they tell us what to do (leads to a bad combo)


We have the same issues here. Every tornado warning they put us in the hallways, but only if the storm is "really bad" (some people's ideas of 'bad' is lightning) will they move students to the lower floors and interior rooms.

Although, we have tornado drills once a month as required by state law.

Other than teachers and admins having no clue on how to discern weather or other reasons like: that a tornado warning on the opposite side of the county will never hurt us....
What I struggle with is students, fellow peers who mock the teachers after given an order to do something. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, right? I wish my classmates realized this before they committed to their irresponsible behaviors. To me, that deserves detention.

Quoting MississippiWx:
Get them, Isaac. Lol. Seriously, though, I am very shocked to read that your school doesn't make the students go to the lowest level for protection. Being on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the most basic rule for tornado preparedness. That is disappointing and I hope that you can lead a program that causes them to change their plans.


Only time we have ever done interior rooms is when a hailstorm was about 10 miles to the south...which apparently was the same storm that was issued a tornado warning, yet we only took shelter AFTER the sirens had turned off and the warning was canceled.


Since we don't do enough practice, we certainly aren't perfect. There could be panic and chaos since we might not remember what to exactly do. I know nothing is absolutely perfect, but if there is a good amount of practice everything can go closer to plan.

We get around 10 practices in each year, and sometimes a real drill or two during the spring.
BUT, let me tell you something Isaac, chaos will always ensue no matter how prepared you are. Even if the tornado doesn't strike your school. When I was in 4th grade, they passed out candy to try to calm us, as there were hundreds of us crying as we were told that a tornado (F3) had passed 1/4 mile away and that some of our homes were likely gone.
The only purpose to practicing the drills is the hope to keep the students physically safe. Emotionally safe is another issue. Whenever we get warned during school even today, I get flashbacks of seeing the damage, of seeing my peers bawling on the floor, and then, not seeing them for weeks because their homes were no more.


As for the schools themselves, they are both 2 story buildings and they are both aging. Construction on both of them was most likely in the middle of the 1900s(1940s-1960s). This means that they aren't built up to the latest MI building codes and aren't as strong as they could be.

Heh, last part of my response.

My high school was built in the 1930s. Yet, it is probably one of the strongest schools in the area, even though it is aging severely, just from the construction of the building. Concrete brick, multi-story building, with a basement (that should be cleaned...), the place should be quite strong. Try to see what your school is made out of in the walls, remember that back then, we didn't use cheap building materials or do things like staple the roof on like we do today.
Besides, MI codes? You saw how well OK's code laws did for them, perhaps a more substantive approach would be to do reform in coding for homes and buildings like Florida and California have done for their respective issues.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 101 Comments: 10449
15. wxchaser97
4:07 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Thanks everybody. Seems like some other areas have some problems as well, not good.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7972
14. TropicalAnalystwx13
3:46 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
I hope our school is never hit by a tornado, because nobody would know what to do. Most of our classes are spent in outside trailers instead of the main [brick] building. We've had occasional tornado drills, but all the principal makes us do is go to the hallway, sit down for five or so seconds, and then go back to class.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32717
13. weatherh98
3:43 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
I've gone through warnings at my school a couple of times, we usually just sit there on our phones (I'm looking at weather stuff to make sure it isn't a real tornado)

For example this year, on a tornado warned cell, we sat on the 3rd story of a building. Not good. I knew obviously there was no tornado, but the rotation passed almost directly over my location. Had there been a stronger rotation I probably would've ran down the stairs and gone under the stairwell on the first floor (of course the teachers who know next to nothing about weather probably would've given me a detention)

That also brings up another point in that most educators don't know how to recognize severe weather events, so when it happens they are completely in the dark and don't know what's happening when they tell us what to do (leads to a bad combo)
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
12. weatherh98
3:33 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting MississippiWx:
Get them, Isaac. Lol. Seriously, though, I am very shocked to read that your school doesn't make the students go to the lowest level for protection. Being on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the most basic rule for tornado preparedness. That is disappointing and I hope that you can lead a program that causes them to change their plans.
not just his school... My school as well...


Send them strongly worded letters:)
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
11. PedleyCA
3:33 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Great Post. Glad that someone is taking the time to try to correct a lack of common sense on the school boards part. I liked what advice BFOTR had to share with you. Those are a couple places to start. Well done though, keep it up.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6105
10. wxchaser97
3:29 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting Barefootontherocks:
The problem of tornado safety is many-faceted. You've done a great job on your blog. Your concern for your community is palpable. And, of course, you are raising valid concerns. You might want to get on the agenda to speak directly to your school board members. Could be a good place to start. And be sure the media, local paper at least, is there. You could also shorten this and write a letter to the local paper editor to start. I hope your community listens to what you have to say.

We're doing better here in central Oklahoma. And let's not forget Moore was not the only place hit hard. The total number of tors for Saturday and Sunday, just in the Norman forecast area - there were others to the east- is now up to eight and could climb. There has been an amazing outpouring of kindness from large corporations, professional athletes and entertainers on down to ordinary citizens. One really neat thing is Joplin sent people to advise the officials on recovery effort. During his re-election campaign he did not appear in OK in public, but the President will visit Sunday.

Couple things about your facts on the Moore tornado. Seven students died at Plaza Towers school, not nine. The other three children died when the tornado demolished a building that housed a day care. You wrote, "The death toll would've been higher if it weren't for the advanced warning lead times, time of day, and exact track of the tornado." Maybe that's true. I know the TV mets and chasers saved lives, so let's give them some kudos. They are heroes every year.

Thanks for taking time to write and post this blog.


Thank you for taking the time to write something. Also thanks for the clarification on the number of deaths at Plaza Towers. I wish a speedy recovery to all areas affected by tornadoes over the past few days. I'm most likely going to be sending this to the school district and maybe even the local news. Once again, thank you.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7972
9. Barefootontherocks
2:59 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
The problem of tornado safety is many-faceted. You've done a great job on your blog. Your concern for your community is palpable. And, of course, you are raising valid concerns. You might want to get on the agenda to speak directly to your school board members. Could be a good place to start. And be sure the media, local paper at least, is there. You could also shorten this and write a letter to the local paper editor to start. I hope your community listens to what you have to say.

We're doing better here in central Oklahoma. And let's not forget Moore was not the only place hit hard. The total number of tors for Saturday and Sunday, just in the Norman forecast area - there were others to the east- is now up to eight and could climb. There has been an amazing outpouring of kindness from large corporations, professional athletes and entertainers on down to ordinary citizens. One really neat thing is Joplin sent people to advise the officials on recovery effort. During his re-election campaign he did not appear in OK in public, but the President will visit Sunday.

Couple things about your facts on the Moore tornado. Seven students died at Plaza Towers school, not nine. The other three children died when the tornado demolished a building that housed a day care. You wrote, "The death toll would've been higher if it weren't for the advanced warning lead times, time of day, and exact track of the tornado." Maybe that's true. I know the TV mets and chasers saved lives, so let's give them some kudos. They are heroes every year.

Thanks for taking time to write and post this blog.

Add: please see comment 19 for news account of other 3 child deaths.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 157 Comments: 19230
8. Bluestorm5
2:49 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting wxchaser97:

Lol, Bride Creek. I fixed it.
Thank you so much Kyle. I really appreciate it that you like it a lot. I plan on doing the necessary things to get the job done.



Don't worry Kori, I'll do a tropical update sometime this weekend. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
Like Drew said, go get them!
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8046
7. wxchaser97
12:42 PM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Just to let you know I'm starting to read this long blog (it's longer than my blog to be posted tomorrow). Will edit the comment when I'm done.

EDIT 1: "Then, a large F5 tornado hit Bride Creek, Moore, and south OKC. That one killed 36 people and caused $1.4 billion dollars in damage." Misspelled Bridge Creek. I'm just a spelling Nazi, not grammar Nazi :P Still reading.

EDIT 2: Wow... that was a powerful read. You should SERIOUSLY send this blog to Berkley schools. This is unacceptable, especially for a Midwestern school. Lack of drills, lack of safe shelters, and bad locations. Even this 18 year old studnet know this is just flat out unacceptable. My school in North Carolina correctly put people in the right sections of school, but we only do one drill a year as well. I honestly think tornado drills should be half as common as fire drills (ratio is about 10 fire drills to one tornado drills). When I was growing up in Missouri, we did tornado drills 3 to 5 times a year so you could tell I was shocked to see lack of drills here. Kudos to you, Isaac, for a wonderful blog post about lack of school's safely. Maybe the politicians in charge of Berkley will actually listen to a student and fix this ASAP. Again, kudos to you for attempting to make changes in the world. This is very well informative and written. Total respect to you, Isaac.

Lol, Bride Creek. I fixed it.
Thank you so much Kyle. I really appreciate it that you like it a lot. I plan on doing the necessary things to get the job done.


Quoting KoritheMan:
Not what I expected (tropical update), but it quickly turned to welcome surprise. Extremely informative and well-written.

Don't worry Kori, I'll do a tropical update sometime this weekend. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7972
6. Bluestorm5
4:36 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Ignore this or remove this. Blog added this comment by mistake.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8046
5. KoritheMan
4:26 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Not what I expected (tropical update), but it quickly turned to welcome surprise. Extremely informative and well-written.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 602 Comments: 21231
4. Bluestorm5
4:17 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Just to let you know I'm starting to read this long blog (it's longer than my blog to be posted tomorrow). Will edit the comment when I'm done.

EDIT 1: "Then, a large F5 tornado hit Bride Creek, Moore, and south OKC. That one killed 36 people and caused $1.4 billion dollars in damage." Misspelled Bridge Creek. I'm just a spelling Nazi, not grammar Nazi :P Still reading.

EDIT 2: Wow... that was a powerful read. You should SERIOUSLY send this blog to Berkley schools. This is unacceptable, especially for a Midwestern school. Lack of drills, lack of safe shelters, and bad locations. Even this 18 year old studnet know this is just flat out unacceptable. My school in North Carolina correctly put people in the right sections of school, but we only do one drill a year as well. I honestly think tornado drills should be half as common as fire drills (ratio is about 10 fire drills to one tornado drills). When I was growing up in Missouri, we did tornado drills 3 to 5 times a year so you could tell I was shocked to see lack of drills here. Kudos to you, Isaac, for a wonderful blog post about lack of school's safely. Maybe the politicians in charge of Berkley will actually listen to a student and fix this ASAP. Again, kudos to you for attempting to make changes in the world. This is very well informative and written. Total respect to you, Isaac.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8046
3. MississippiWx
4:13 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting wxchaser97:

I was shocked when I was told it. I'm going to do anything I can to change it. Thanks for readin' Drew.


No problem. I was very impressed by this entry. Keep it up.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
2. wxchaser97
4:09 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Quoting MississippiWx:
Get them, Isaac. Lol. Seriously, though, I am very shocked to read that your school doesn't make the students go to the lowest level for protection. Being on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the most basic rule for tornado preparedness. That is disappointing and I hope that you can lead a program that causes them to change their plans.

I was shocked when I was told it. I'm going to do anything I can to change it. Thanks for readin' Drew.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7972
1. MississippiWx
4:07 AM GMT on May 25, 2013
Get them, Isaac. Lol. Seriously, though, I am very shocked to read that your school doesn't make the students go to the lowest level for protection. Being on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the most basic rule for tornado preparedness. That is disappointing and I hope that you can lead a program that causes them to change their plans.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284

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About wxchaser97

I'm in high school and love meteorology and extreme weather. I've been fascinated by weather since I was 5, and I plan on becoming a meteorologist.