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1999 tornado outbreak helped Moore prepare for future storms

by Bryan Painter Modified: May 1, 2009 at 5:21 pm •  Published: February 22, 2009
/articleid/3347665/1/pictures/543600">Photo - From the archives: On May 3,  1999 an F5 Twister that tore through  Moore and the metro. Staff photo by Paul Hellstern
From the archives: On May 3, 1999 an F5 Twister that tore through Moore and the metro. Staff photo by Paul Hellstern
They had, including an F-3 in November 1973.

It also doesn’t mean they hadn’t prepared. Emergency responders and others had practiced. The fire department, police department, public works and county commissioners responded quickly, he said.

What’s changed?
The emergency management director leaned forward when asked, "What’s changed since May 3, 1999?”

"May 3rd kind of got people serious about weather radios,” he said. "And we’ve got tons more storm shelters with the FEMA program after May 3rd and again after May 8.”

In 1999, Moore had 12 warning sirens. Now, the city has 33, including 21 that not only have "alerting tones” but can carry verbal warnings. The sirens undergo an internal test at 5 each morning. Three more units will be ordered next month.

Also today, he has several computer monitors allowing him to watch radars from the National Weather Service and television stations. He also has about 25 mobile storm spotters from Moore and works with other spotters in Norman.

"I can’t keep a storm from happening,” he said. "But as long as I can make sure that the people that are here survive and get recovered back to their normal state of affairs to where they’re not thinking about me, or thinking about tornadoes, that’s my goal. And, I think we’ve achieved that.

"I hope we have.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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Archived radar shot from the May 3, 1999, tornado


This outbreak included nearly 60 tornadoes in central Oklahoma, the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded in Oklahoma, according to the National Weather Service. More than 40 people were killed. Among the nearly 60 tornadoes was the F5 tornado with a track including the Oklahoma City area and two F4 tornadoes that tore through parts of Kingfisher and Logan counties.


of Moore tornado

Following is a timeline put together by Gayland Kitch, emergency management director for the City of Moore, regarding the May 3, 1999, F5 tornado that hit Moore.

4:30 a.m.: National Weather Service Zone Forecast calls for 70 percent chance of thunderstorms; some may be severe.

6:30 a.m.: Hazardous Weather Outlook says there is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms; supercell thunderstorms are possible.

7 a.m.: Storm Prediction Center Outlook says slight risk of severe thunderstorms, with a brief window of tornado potential. Main threat is large hail, transitioning to damaging wind.

12 p.m.: Hazardous Weather Outlook upgraded to a moderate risk of severe storms.

3 p.m.: Prediction center outlook upgraded to high risk.

4:30 p.m.: Tornado watch issued.

4:47 p.m.: First tornado warning, for Grady, Caddo and Comanche counties.

6 p.m.: Moore spotter activation.

6:30 p.m.: Moore cable interruption.

6:57 p.m.: Weather service issues statement titled, "TORNADO EMERGENCY IN SOUTH OKLAHOMA CITY METRO AREA.”

7 p.m.: Moore siren activation/cable interruption.

7:17 p.m.: Tornado Warning issued for northern Cleveland, northern McClain and Oklahoma counties. A tornado was reported on the ground at SW 149 and May Avenue.

7:20 to 7:25 p.m.: Tornado enters Moore.

Tell us your tornado story

As part of our coverage of the 10th anniversary of the May 3, 1999, tornadoes, we are looking for your videos, photos and — most of all — your memories. If you have anything we could use or would like to talk to us about that day, please let us know and help us with our special report online and in the newspaper. E-mail Multimedia Editor Mike Koehler for more information at


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