Power of Okla. tornado dwarfs Hiroshima bomb

This combination of Associated Press photos shows left, a neighborhood in Moore, Okla., in ruins on Tuesday, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right, flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013. Monday's powerful tornado in suburban Oklahoma City loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. (AP Photo)
This combination of Associated Press photos shows left, a neighborhood in Moore, Okla., in ruins on Tuesday, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right, flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013. Monday's powerful tornado in suburban Oklahoma City loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wind, humidity and rainfall combined precisely to create the massive killer tornado in Moore, Okla. And when they did, the awesome amount of energy released over that city dwarfed the power of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.

A demolished home with the car flipped over is all that remains left behind in the damage from the tornado that hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)
A demolished home with the car flipped over is all that remains left behind in the damage from the tornado that hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)

On Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service gave it the top-of-the-scale rating of EF-5 for wind speed and breadth and severity of damage. Wind speeds were estimated at between 200 and 210 mph.

Several meteorologists contacted by The Associated Press used real time measurements to calculate the energy released during the storm’s life span of almost an hour. Their estimates ranged from 8 times to more than 600 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb with more experts at the high end.

The tornado at some points was 1.3 miles wide, and its path went on for 17 miles and 40 minutes. That’s long for a regular tornado but not too unusual for such a violent one, said research meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. Less than 1 percent of all U .S. tornadoes are this violent — only about 10 a year, he said.

With the third strong storm hitting Moore in 14 years, some people are wondering why Moore? It’s a combination of geography, meteorology and lots of bad luck, experts said.

If you look at the climate history of tornadoes in May, you will see they cluster in a spot — maybe 100 miles wide — in central Oklahoma “and there’s good reason for it,” said Adam Houston, meteorology professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. That’s the spot where the weather conditions of warm, moist air and strong wind shear needed for tornadoes combine in just the right balance.

The hot spot is more than just the city of Moore. Several meteorologists offer the same explanation for why that suburb seemed to be hit repeatedly by violent tornadoes: “bad luck.”

Scientists know the key ingredients that go into a devastating tornado. But they are struggling to figure out why they develop in some big storms and not others. They also are still trying to determine what effects, if any, global warming has on tornadoes.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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