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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
MOORE — Gayland Kitch pointed to what he calls his "F-5 windows” at Moore City Hall.

May 3 marks 10 years since he looked through the clear glass panes at a life-taking, life-changing monster tornado packing winds of likely more than 300 mph.

Kitch, the Emergency Management director for the city of Moore, has seen the city hit by an F-3 on Oct. 4, 1998, the F-5 on May 3, 1999, and an F-4 on May 8, 2003.

Connecting the dots
On the morning of May 3 there was a "slight risk of severe thunderstorms,” he said.

But as the day went on, emergency officials monitored the radar, reports and radios. The sirens sounded at 7 p.m., 20 to 25 minutes before the F-5 entered Moore.

"Honestly we knew an hour out that there was a very good chance that we were going to get hit,” he said.

He sat down at an overlay on a map to track the path of the storm.

"At some point I made the mistake of drawing the lines and connecting the dots,” he said, "and I’m like, ‘That’s over Moore.’ I didn’t like that.

"But we had plans, we’d practiced, we’d talked. We’d had exercises. I think we’d probably prepared as much as you can prepare for one.”

Part of the preparation had come seven months earlier — live.

It could happen
The Oct. 4, 1998, tornado was a message, Kitch said.

"If nothing else, it made us realize that it can happen,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Moore hadn’t had tornadoes.

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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Related Links

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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