Atmospheric Archive: May 8, 2003


The second half of this short video is the most interesting. These fellows got a little too close!!!

This tornado took place during day one of an intense 2-day severe weather event in central Oklahoma.

It touched down about a mile and half west of I-35 and cut across the northwest part of Moore to the north of Highway 37. It reached F3 (158-207mph) status during a portion of this path. It heavily damaged about 150 homes and nearly obliterated several large businesses including two hotels and a church, which were all but leveled.  It then crossed I-35, briefly weakened, only to strengthen and resume its severe thrashing of the area.

After crossing I-240 (southeast of downtown OKC), it struck one of its more significant “targets”: the GM truck Assembly Plant. This facility was heavily damaged by winds of 150-200mph, with major to catastrophic damage to about half of the plant.  The roof was peeled off in part of the factory exposing expensive machinery parts to the weather. The body shop, power house, and a couple of cooling tanks were wrecked. The steam-stack on one of the boilers was sheared off.

More than 600 newly-built SUV’s parked outside the plant were totaled.  About 100 employee vehicles were also damaged with one small car flipped vertically and rammed into the side of the building. Other structures in the immediate area around the plant were destroyed or severely damaged.

The tornado then moved onto Tinker Air Force Base. An ammunition storage bunker and a guard shack were heavily damaged. No one was hurt: they had time to take cover in a safe place.

The tornado continued to damage homes and also down trees and power lines. Strong F2 to F3 damage with occasional F4 (200+mph) damage would continue for some time as this large tornado sliced through several heavily populated residential suburbs on the eastern side of Oklahoma City (Del City and Midwest City).

It tracked along a total path of 19 miles, at times about 2000 feet wide.

Two separate tornadic Supercells spin up this tornado along with three others during the afternoon hours of May 8, 2003. Some locations in Moore and southeast Oklahoma City that were hit by this storm had also endured the F-5 tornado of May 1999. In fact, the map below shows a portion of the two tornado tracks were identical for several miles. Talk about bad luck!


On the good luck side, there were no fatalities due to good warning lead time, but 134 people were injured, and damage was placed at $400 million.

Another tornado event would happen the next night (May 9) in Oklahoma City, but those two tornadoes were much weaker and affected the other side of town. 

Take Care,

Steve LaNore

Chief Meteorologist

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  • by Ron Location: Howe on May 8, 2009 at 07:25 AM
    I've watched a few docs on that tornado and the meteorologist for the tv station abandoned the normal advice of getting in the bathtub and said, "You need to be underground." One OKC resident who survived it (this was his third tornado in 5 years) had a storm room built in the garage. After the storm passed, he stepped outside onto a really large porch. The storm had cleaned his house off of the slab.
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