A look back at the May 29 - May 31, 2013 severe weather

A look back at the May 29 - May 31, 2013 severe weather

Quick Facts:

  • Several days of severe weather left behind destruction from wind, rain, and tornadoes
  • Oklahoma saw multiple rounds of severe weather throughout the month of May
  • A tornado would become the widest recorded tornado

May 2013 - the month that had several rounds of severe weather within a two week period. Green Country saw tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, and even flooding rains. As the month was ending, another week was looking to bring more rounds of severe weather to the area.

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May 29

Meteorologists talk about storms forming along a dry line and frontal boundaries - that is what happened here. Storms developed along these boundaries in central Oklahoma during the middle of the workweek then moved to the east, bringing with them strong, damaging winds and large hail.

Tornado Watch expanded and now includes much of northeast Oklahoma until 11pm.

Posted by FOX23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott on Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Large amounts of rain fell from these storms, dropping over 1" of rain in some locations, with others receiving almost 5" (near Skiatook).


Flooding occurred along some of the larger creeks/rivers: Bird Creek, the Caney River, the Verdigris River, and the Neosho River.

May 30

Round two of severe weather started as the weekend inched closer. Not only did these storms pack a similar punch to the ones from May 29, but they possessed an added threat, tornadoes. These tornadoes developed and impacted areas such as Oilton, Mazie, Murphy, and Broken Arrow.

TORNADO WARNING until 8:15 for S. Mayes Co., N. Cherokee Co., SW Delaware Co.

Posted by FOX23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott on Thursday, May 30, 2013


Posted by FOX23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott on Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Broken Arrow tornado moved through starting half a mile west of County Line Rd and north of New Orleans. It moved to the east, snapping trees, tearing apart buildings, damaging houses, all before moving into Wagoner County.

FOX23 was on scene as first responders were setting up and establishing a command post after the tornado moved through:

Traffic backed up after tornado touchdown in Broken Arrow.

Posted by FOX23 News on Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Broken Arrow tornado would later be rated an EF-2 with winds up to 135 mph. The length of the tornado damage was 5.6 miles long and about 450 yards wide.

The tornado wasn't the only problem moving through the area. More rainfall. Some of these storms moved through the same areas as the day before, dropping up to 2" in some locations.

May 31

Day three arrived and so did another round of severe weather.

Tornado Watch for 38 Counties in Oklahoma until 12:00 AM

Posted by FOX23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott on Friday, May 31, 2013

Thunderstorms once again started in central Oklahoma and moved their way towards eastern and northeastern portions of the state, bringing with them pounding rains, strong winds, and again, tornadoes.

Several storms produced tornadoes near Hulah, Pawhuska, Copan, Watova, and Grove.

The tornadoes weren't the only problems facing Green Country. A storm that had a formed and tracked for a long time, had a large amount of precipitation and moved into Green Country. This storm brought widespread flooding in the Oklahoma City area and had even produced a few tornadoes.

Once this storm arrived in Green Country, it was slow-moving, brought large amounts of rain, 3″ - 8″ of rain in Okfuskee and McIntosh Counties.


After three rounds of strong to severe storms in three days, Green Country received flooding rains, damaging winds, and ten tornadoes.

Four-day rainfall totals show just how isolated some of the heavy rainfall could be. From 0.86" in Porter to 1.58" in Westville, 7.26" in Nowata, and 7.73" in Okemah.


Northeast Oklahoma is not the only portion of Oklahoma that suffered from the severe weather. As previously mentioned, the storm that moved through and dropped large amounts of rain in Okfuskee and McIntosh counties had developed what would become the widest recorded tornado back in Central Oklahoma.

El Reno Tornado

11 days after an EF-5 ripped through Moore, destroying a school, neighborhoods, and lives, another round of severe weather was expected to move through Central Oklahoma again.

The atmospheric ingredients were very similar to that of May 20, 2013; a nearly stationary front was draped diagonally across the state (southwest to northeast), with a dryline. Temperatures warmed up causing instability ahead of the dryline. Storms began along the point where the dryline and stationary front met, quickly becoming severe with some rotation.

The first tornado of the day formed in Kingfisher county but did very little damage. This was not the case for the second tornado.

The "El Reno Tornado" later became one of the most powerful tornadoes to be sampled by mobile radars from the University of Oklahoma and the Center for Severe Weather Research. This tornado would also become the widest known tornado to be recorded.

What made this tornado so "interesting" is not only how wide it was (2.6 miles), but how complex its path it. This particular tornado continued to rapidly change in speed and in direction of movement.

FOX23's Michael Seger was following this storm when he and his chase partners realized this storm was going to be a problem:

El Reno, OK Tornado 5-31-2013

Here's a quick clip of our footage of yesterday's tornado south of El Reno, OK. I apologize for the language, which we bleeped. I sadly got caught in the moment as the tornado was coming right at us and was no more than a mile away. Many chasers were caught off-gaurd and hit by the tornado when it shifted SE. We realized what was happening and thankfully got out of the way before it was too late. Huge credit to my chase partners Wes Kane and Bill Lawrence.

Posted by FOX23 Michael Seger on Saturday, June 1, 2013

When the tornado started at 6:03 PM local time, it was moving to the southeast about 20-25 mph

6 minutes after (6:09 PM) the tornado formed, the tornado started to move to the east and picked up speed to 30-40 mph. The tornado developed two smaller tornadoes outside the main circulation, known as satellite tornadoes.

6:19 PM - the tornado changed directions again and picked up speed. Now moving to the north at 50 mph, the tornado was getting very large. As it approached Interstate 40, speed dropped drastically to less than 10 mph and the path made a loop around the interstate (as seen in the picture).

El Reno tornado with time stamps
El Reno tornado with time stamps

After the loop, the tornado started to move to the east again but dissipated in less than 10 minutes from the start of the eastward movement.

As seen in the image with the path of the tornado, most of the path was in fields. Monetary damages were estimated, but winds were measured by the mobile radars. One radar measured over 200 mph winds with another measuring 295 mph winds right above the surface.

Michael looked back on the time he spent following this storm when FOX23 air the FOX23 Severe Weather Special the following April:

Tornadoes: Tracking Moore and El Reno

Hard to believe it's been a year since the Moore tornado. A terrible tragedy, and a day many of us will NEVER forget. Our chase team, including Wes Kane, Bill Lawrence, Cory Hensley, and myself, targeted the OKC metro with the anticipation of tracking severe storms from central Oklahoma into Green Country and eventually the Tulsa metro. Even though we knew there was potential for devastating tornadoes, I don't think we expected to witness such a horrible event. A helpless gut-wrenching feeling knowing a monster tornado is barreling through a populated area. I pulled this story from the FOX23 Severe Weather Special, which aired in April, describing what it was like to chase the Moore tornado. The story also includes the El Reno tornado of May 31, 2013.

Posted by FOX23 Michael Seger on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This tornado was given an EF-3 rating due to the fact that most of the damage was in fields. The Enhanced Fujita scale is based on damage and winds are then estimated. At this time there is not a way to rate a tornado based on measured winds. It is all in the way that the rating system is written. If the ratings were based on measured winds, this tornado would have easily been given an EF-5 rating.

After all the damage surveys were done, the El Reno tornado was 2.6 miles wide, 16.2 miles long in damage path, and was on the ground for 40 minutes.

A link that has always interested me, was made by a Reddit user. The user took the path of the tornado and laid it over Google Maps. This allows a user to compare the path of the tornado in El Reno to the path this tornado would have taken had it stuck somewhere else. I have placed the El Reno tornado path over Tulsa and attached the link here.