The Most Incredible Oklahoma Tornado Videos

By Will Halicks

The massive tornado that ripped through Oklahoma on Monday has been chronicled on video by news outlets, storm chasers, and shaken survivors. Here are some of the most compelling clips, as chosen by National Geographic’s video editors. (Related: “Oklahoma Tornado: Why So Destructive, Unpredictable?”)

This video catches the tornado just as it’s forming near Newcastle, Oklahoma. In the background, tinny warnings from the car’s radio urge people to seek shelter. (Also see a video showing the birth of a tornado in Kansas.)

Storm chasers David Demko and Heidi Farrar got caught in the debris surrounding the tornado, now a giant storm, before it destroyed an elementary school and killed at least 24 in the town of Moore. Demko’s remark, “This is worse than Joplin,” refers to the deadly 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri.

This clip offers a much closer encounter. As the tornado passes directly above his storm shelter, Charles Gafford III thrusts his phone through a gap to capture video of the storm’s whirling, debris-filled maw. (That’s a car tire blowing past at 00:36).

How did it feel to climb from safety into the wreckage of that storm? In this short video, a man witnesses an obliterated landscape when he leaves a shelter where he and others had weathered the tornado. (See more pictures of the Oklahoma tornado.)

Here, storm chasers capture the tornado passing close to a high school. The giant storm, wreathed in flying debris, tears the roof off a distant building (00:36) and gradually dominates the skyline.

Other videos show us miracles amid the wreckage. The Oklahoman captured a mother’s tearful reunion with her first-grade son, a student at the elementary school destroyed by the tornado.

In an on-camera interview with CBS, a woman who survived the tornado is unexpectedly reunited with her missing dog, spotted under some debris by a member of the CBS production crew. (The reunion happens at 01:28.)

Rubble from a destroyed neighborhood is seen May 21 in Moore, Oklahoma. Photograph by Brennan Linsley, AP

Tell us—what other videos have you seen of the Oklahoma tornado?

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Hannah

    THis other video of the Moore, OK tornado of May 20, 2013, was taken by a man from his storm shelter during the storm and is also amazing.


  • Tahera Arefine

    i pray allah tornado affected people.

  • Ivan

    The May 20 Moore EF5 preceeded the even larger one,the 2,6 mile wide El Reno tornado. Although officially classified as an EF3 due to much of it tracking through open rural areas (some 16 miles or so?) and ended just past I40,imho it should have been classified as an EF5,for se sve details:
    -rotation windspeed; at some points it had gusts of up 350-400 mph
    -suction vortecies; one of them was responsible for deaths of three best storm chasers ever (Tim Samaris,his son Paul and Carl Young) which had the aforementioned speeds measured and recorded every time one of them appeared
    -the “bear cage” size; the funnel itself was about a mile+ wide,but the cage made of rain wrapping the funnel was 2,6 miles wide,maybe even wider than that
    -path unpredictability; just like the May 20th Moore tornado which,to some accounts,should have missed Moore by a mile or so,the El Reno monster was highly unpredictable. Both made several turns and stalled in some places which made evacuation near impossible since there was no knowledge as to where they’ll hit next
    -rapid development and just as rapid disipation; both tornados developed rapidly,with some signs existing of potential tornados forming,but in both cases with some degree of uncertainty. First of all,squall lines were split into several smaller cells which eventually merged and went supercell. Second,inflow was present at all times,tho before the merger they were on the low,which led people to think it would either produce smaller tornadic vortecies or only large hail and flash floods. Third,CAPs weren’t really obvious until the squall line erupted into a well organized supercell. Fourth,convection appeared relatively early on but hit massively later through the day. Massive inflow was already feeding the squall line and outflow was negligable which kinda pointed out in the direction of tornadic activity but the dew points and CAPE were still not set until the supercell merger.
    All the signs were there (in time,of course),but due to the erradic movement of both funnels it was hard to predict them with absolute precision since the Moore tornado was supposed to miss by approx. a mile whilst the El Reno one was bound to hit El Reno and most adjacent area.
    Goes to show how unpredictable these weather phenomena are in every way possible.

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