Tornado with highest wind speed on record touches down 20 years ago today

Wind speeds topped 300 mph at one point.

Photo Credit: NWS Norman general forecaster Erin Maxwell
Photo Credit: NWS Norman general forecaster Erin Maxwell

We've become no stranger to tornadoes in recent years, but we've never come close to the one that moved through Bridge Creek and Moore, Oklahoma on May 3, 1999. This storm essentially became the benchmark for tornadoes, reaching wind speeds greater than 300 miles per hour. 

It's not often that direct measurements are taken from tornadoes, as most equipment fails or is destroyed in the process. The measured wind speed, however, would make it the highest recorded wind speed in the world.

While the F5 damage was found on a narrow swath, it's hard to imagine what something of this magnitude would do.

36 people died, while nearly 600 were injured. 1,800 homes were destroyed, with 2,500 damaged. This storm was also responsible for $1 billion in damage. 

This one storm was just part of Oklahoma's largest tornado outbreak on record, with nearly 70 tornadoes touching down in the region.

Below, you can find an archived radar loop of the storm that blasted through Bridge Creek, Moore and Oklahoma City.

That day, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman issued a high risk of severe weather.


While the SPC's risk categories have changed in the last 20 years, a high risk is still rarely issued.

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