Astonishing Hi-Resolution Satellite Views of the Destruction from the Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

by Nancy Atkinson on May 23, 2013

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Sceenshot of a satellite view from Google/Digital Globe of the destruction in Moore, Oklahoma after the May 20, 2013 tornado. Click image to have access to an interactive, zoomable version via NPR.

Sceenshot of a satellite view from Google/Digital Globe of the destruction in Moore, Oklahoma after the May 20, 2013 tornado. Click image to have access to an interactive, zoomable version via NPR.

A new satellite map from Google and Digital Globe shows just-released satellite imagery of the damage from the tornado that struck the area of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. It’s been called one of the most powerful and destructive tornadoes ever recorded — determined to be an EF5 tornado, the strongest rating for a tornado — and the destruction is heartbreaking. In the screenshot above, you can see how some houses were left undamaged, while others were completely destroyed.

Click on the image above to have access to an interactive map that shows hi-resolution views of the damage, providing details of where the buildings and houses once were. NPR put this map together, using satellite data from Digital Globe, along with property data from City of Oklahoma City, City of Moore, and Cleveland County. Satellite data like this are helping to assist the recovery and rescue teams on the ground.

In the immediate aftermath of a natural catastrophe such as this tornado, the priority is searching for survivors and saving lives.

But longer term recovery — including the rebuilding of infrastructure and amenities such as schools and hospitals — can take decades, and satellite imagery can provide a systematic approach to aiding, monitoring and evaluating this process.

Satellite view of the destructive tornado that passed just south of Oklahoma City. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of the storm at 2:40 p.m. local time (19:40 UTC) on May 20, 2013. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Satellite view of the destructive tornado that passed just south of Oklahoma City. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of the storm at 2:40 p.m. local time (19:40 UTC) on May 20, 2013. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

See more satellite views from NASA of the storm and aftermath on NASA Goddard’s Flickr page for this tornado.

The Take Part website has a list of organizations that are providing support for the recovery and care of the people affected, if you would like to contribute.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Zoutsteen from Holland May 23, 2013 at 11:49 AM

the tornado almost seems to follow the road a bit, even bending at the bend of the road ….

Might that be a useful tool? Creating heat soaking roads around a village?

ClayCampbell May 23, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Wow, it looks like every school in the town was directly in the path of the tornado, talk about bad luck. Do schools in tornado prone areas like Oklahoma have emergency procedures/shelters for disasters like this?

James Chaney May 23, 2013 at 9:30 PM

All schools in Oklahoma have tornado procedures and practice them often. Shelters are not nearly as prevalent as they should be.

Aqua4U May 23, 2013 at 9:34 PM

Dang… If I lived there and didn’t have a concrete shelter… I’d be building one today.. Sheesh… and dzzzz… Didja see that guy who’s shelter was the only thing standing in the hood? AC/DC TV to watch the storm and all buttoned up!

Planemo May 24, 2013 at 3:34 AM

Its all about the “$” with tornado shelters in schools. Sad but true.

Prism2Spectrum May 27, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Were economically possible, underground storm-shelters can have their own hazards. If rescuers don’t arrive in time, you could be entombed under a ton of debris. A one-piece, ground-embedded, capsule-like storm-shelter out in the open for a family could work. Apart from available space, who can be sure were debris piles may come to rest?

Clay soil conditions in some Plain-regions are not favorable for underground structures, I’ve read. In some locations, bedrock is deep buried under moist earth, subject to the daily, seasonal, expansion-contraction of heat and cold. A not well-anchored house could, over years, be undermined, weakened over an unstable, below-ground basement, absent a firm-foundation.

“Money remains a big obstacle for building storm shelters. Basements … can add as much as 10 percent to the overall cost [ imagine the price for a school or hospital ]. … Basements aren’t the answer because unless you have a concrete ceiling, it’ll be a hole in the ground filled with debris.” — Curtis McCarty, Oklahoma home builder. ( ABC News )

Rapid formation, and touchdown location of a tornado, as with sudden visit of this devouring whirlwind, may not afford sufficient time for mass-sheltering before it hits — where safe refuge is not easily accessible, and nearby: large numbers of people moved quickly into a safe location.

“Virtually no ground-level building can withstand the fiercest tornadoes, with winds of more than 200 miles per hour. But it might be possible to design schools and other public buildings to make parts of them less vulnerable. ‘We need to get architects and engineers together to see if something can be designed’ to provide a better level of safety at reasonable cost per life saved,”… — Kevin Simmons, natural disaster economist. ( The Daily Beast )

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