Friday's tornado near El Reno broke a record for being the world's widest tornado ever recorded. The deadly twister has now been upgraded to EF5 status. At one point, it was more than two and a half miles wide.
The El Reno tornado was more than twice as wide as the May 3, 1999 tornado in Moore. The El Reno tornado stayed in a rural area but took a jagged path.
"To have it go east, southeast and then to make a turn and do a hard, hard hook, it doesn't happen like that very often," News 9 meteorologist David Payne said.
Payne and Bob Mills SkyNews 9 HD pilot Jim Gardner surveyed the damage and were amazed at what they saw.
"Just imagine if this would have been a city area," Garnder said while flying above the destruction path.
The tornado started at 6:03 p.m. southwest of El Reno. It was heading directly for Union City before turning toward I-40. It broke a world record just east of Highway 81 by reaching a width of 2.6 miles. It took 40 minutes before the tornado died down, just west of Yukon.
According to the National Weather Service in Norman, here is how the El Reno tornado compares to the Moore tornadoes of May 20, 2013 and May 3, 1999:
- May 3, 1999 – 1 mile wide, world's strongest winds of more than 300 mph (Moore)
- May 20, 2013 – 1.3 miles wide, winds of 210 mph (Moore)
- May 31, 2013 - 2.6 miles wide, winds of 295 mph (El Reno)
As of late Tuesday, the number of deaths for all three historic tornadoes combined to a total of 87 people. Many of the people killed Friday were in their cars. Experts say that is one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado.