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Oklahoma Tornadoes

Following a series of tornadoes across Texas and Oklahoma, a powerful EF-5 level tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma on the afternoon of May 20, 2013. The tornado swept through 20 miles in the area, destroying almost everything in its path.

It was the deadliest tornado since 2011’s Joplin. Missouri tornado, and considered one of the worst in the past 20 years. Eleven days later, five tornadoes and resulting flash flooding moved through Oklahoma, killing more than a dozen people including five children and three veteran storm chasers.

(Photo: Robert Ottenhoff)

The first storms were reported in Oklahoma on May 19, 2013 hitting cities of Shawnee and Edmond. On May 20, 2013 a tornado developed on the north side of Newcastle, Oklahoma and struck Moore. The 2-mile wide tornado swept the length of 20 miles in the area, destroying most everything in its path.The storm had winds of 200 mph and left EF-5 tornado damage. It’s the deadliest tornado since 2011’s Joplin tornado, and considered one of the worst in the past 20 years.

The area’s tornado warning system alerted the area to the coming storm within 16 minutes, which is higher than average warning for a tornado, according to NOAA. Many people evacuated the area, or took shelter in their secure storm cellars, which are credited for saving thousands of lives. Still, 24 people died, including 10 children.

Within hours, NGOs were on the ground providing immediate relief including medical aid, food and temporary shelter.  Within days dozens of organizations descended upon Moore to help begin the cleanup and the process of long-term recovery. Several funds were established to support long-term recovery including The OK Strong Fund  and the Shawnee and Moore Recovery Fund of the Tulsa Community Foundation. With its long history of tornadoes, several funds had previously been established including one for immediate relief and other for long-term recovery at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

President Obama signed a Major Disaster Declaration FEMA-4117 for the State of Oklahoma, allowing residents to apply for FEMA assistance.

Eleven days later, five tornadoes and  flash floods moved through Oklahoma, killing more than a dozen people including 5 children and 3 veteran storm chasers who were the subjects of the cable reality show, Storm Chasers.

The tornadoes brought to mind for many residents a May 3, 1999 EF5 twister that killed 46 people and smashed some of the same communities.  The strongest tornado, rated a maximum EF5 on the Fujita Tornado Scale, tracked for nearly an hour and a half along a 38-mile path from Chickasha through south Oklahoma City and the suburbs of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Moore, Midwest City and Del City.

Facts & stats

Dates: May 18- 30

Locations: Tulsa, Shawnee, Norman, Moore, and El Reno, Oklahoma; and Milsap and Granbury, Texas

Deaths: In Moore, 24, including 10 children. In El Reno, 14 including 5 children.

Injuries: 145 in Moore, Oklahoma; 45 in Granbury, Texas; 276 in El Reno, Oklahoma

Homes damaged: 2,400 in Moore, Oklahoma

People impacted: 10,000

Declaration: President Obama signed a Major Disaster Declaration FEMA-4117 for the State of Oklahoma.

Philanthropic and government support

We collaborated with The Foundation Center to highlight cash donations made in response to this disaster.

  • The American Legion, $1 million to veterans in Oklahoma impacted by the tornado
  • Chesapeake Energy Corporation Contributions Program, $1 million to American Red Cross
  • Comfort Inn &Suites, $100,000 to American Red Cross
  • Conoco Phillips Corporate Giving Program, $1 million to American Red Cross
  • General Motors Foundation, $100,000 to American Red Cross
  • Home Depot Foundation, $250,000 to American Red Cross, and $100,000 to Team Rubicon
  • Phillips 66 Corporate Giving Program, $1 million to American red Cross
  • Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, $25,000 to American Red Cross
  • OG&E Energy Corp. Foundation, $500,000 to American Red Cross
  • The Allstate Foundation, $75,000 to American Red Cross
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Corporate Giving Program, $1,000,000 to American Red Cross and Salvation Army
  • AT&T Inc. Corporate Giving Program, $100,000 to American Red Cross
  • CIGNA Foundation,  $25,000 to American Red Cross
  • Continental Resources, Inc. , $2.5 million to American Red Cross
  • Cox Enterprises, Inc. Corporate Giving Program , $1 million to American Red Cross
  • Direct Relief International, $100,000 to local nonprofit health care providers
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation Contributions Program, $500,000 to American Red Cross
  • General Motors Foundation, Inc. $50,000 to Help 4 Oklahoma
  • Hubbell Power Systems, Inc. , $5,000 to American Red Cross
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Giving Program, $500,000 among American Red Cross, World Vision, Convoy of Hope, and United Way of Central Oklahoma $500,000
  • Koch Industries, Inc. Corporate Giving Program,  $1 million among American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund
  • Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, $1 million to American Red Cross
  • National Basketball Association Corporate Giving Program, $500,000 to American Red Cross and other disaster assistance organizations
  • National Basketball Players Association, $500,000 to American Red Cross and other disaster assistance organizations
  • Oklahoma City Thunder, $1 million divided among to American Red Cross, ONEOK Foundation, Inc. ONE Trust Fund and disaster assistance organizations to be determined
  • Target Corporation Contributions Program, $250,000 divided between  American Red Cross and Salvation Army
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Corporate Giving Program, $250,000, AARP Foundation Oklahoma Tornado Relief Fund
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, $100,000, American red Cross
  • BOK Financial Corporation, $25,000, American Red Cross
  • Edmond Hyundai, $50,000, American Red Cross, Oklahoma Chapter
  • Gordmans, Inc.,  $10,000, American Red Cross
  • Hunterdon Medical Center Foundation, $5,000 to VHA Disaster Relief Fund
  • Hyundai Motor America, $200,000, American Red Cross
  • Inasmuch Foundation, $100,000, Regional Foodbank of Oklahoma
  • Johnson Controls, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, $100,000, OK Strong Relief Fund of Oklahoma
  • Meritrust Credit Union, $10,000, Oklahoma Credit Union Foundation
  • Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge, $100,000, Plaza Tower Foundation Fund
  • Valero Energy Foundation, $150,000, American Red Cross (employee match)
  • Sempra Energy Foundation, $25,000, American Red Cross
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., $50,000, The Sinclair Relief Fund
  • Subaru of America, Inc., $70,000, American Red Cross and Central Oklahoma Humane Society
  • Ken Kendrick, $200,000,  Oklahoma City All Sports Association for baseball field repairs
  • Botanical Laboratories, $77,000, Nourish America
  • CoBank, $4,020, to various organizations
  • Fidelity Investments Corporate Giving Program, $2,010 to various organizations
  • VHA Foundation, $15,000, to employees of the Norman Regional Health System impacted by the tornadoes.

NGO Response

  • All Hands Volunteers is on the ground in Moore, OK, providing direct relief to individuals and families in need of support. In coordination with our recovery partners, and in conjunction with local and state agencies, we are continuing to assess the community’s evolving needs and directing additional support and resources where they are most needed.
  • All Humanity Network: The All Humanity Team Recovery is headed to Oklahoma to support clean up efforts and provide support to people who have been impacted by the events.
  • The American Red Cross is providing food, supplies, emotional support and health services for new relief operations across communities in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Iowa. Shelters are open and emergency aid stations will be open where people can get food and snacks, mental health and health care services and information about what help is available.
  • AmeriCares is working with free clinics and community health centers and shelters to assess needs and help survivors with the delivery of acute and chronic care medicines and relief supplies. They are also currently accepting monetary donations, which are being triple matched up to $100,000 ($300,000 total).
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is making funding available to eligible animal welfare nonprofit organizations and government agencies whose work has been impacted by the Oklahoma tornadoes via its Emergency and Disaster Response grants program These grants provide funding for pet food, shelter supplies, rescue supplies and equipment, boarding/fostering of rescued or at-risk animals, animal transport/relocation, animal medical care, overtime expenses for shelter staff, travel expenses for staff deployed to affected disaster areas, and infrastructure repairs/rebuilding.
  • Architecture for Humanity is working with local and regional construction professionals to begin damage assessments and support rebuilding work by incorporating resiliency and disaster mitigation strategies, leaving communities safer and stronger than before. Architecture for Humanity is a nonprofit design services firm working to  build a more sustainable future through the power of professional design. By tapping a network of more than 75,000 professionals willing to lend time and expertise to help those who would not otherwise be able to afford their services, we bring design, construction and development services where they are most critically needed.
  • The Direct Relief Emergency Response team has been on the ground conducting assessments in conjunction with Team Rubicon and our partner network of safety net clinics located throughout the region over the past two weeks. Since the first wave of tornadoes hit Oklahoma City on May 20, Direct Relief has infused over $600,000 worth of medicines, medical supplies, tetanus vaccines, insulin, and personal hygiene items into the affected regions. These medical resources – donated by over 20 different healthcare manufacturing companies – have been delivered to community clinics and health centers throughout the region that are providing care to local residents who have been displaced and also to first responders.  FedEx has generously contributed free overnight transportation to enable Direct Relief to get these critically-needed items to frontline, on-the-ground medical providers. More details about the response efforts can be found here.
  • HEART 9/11 is on the ground working with FEMA and fellow HEART 9/11 Oklahoma City Police and Fire Department members: expertly addressing homeowners’ physical and emotional recovery, structural and safety concerns, safely coordinating other relief groups, as well as demolition and construction. HEART 9/11 rebuilds not only property following a disaster, but also lives – from emergency response to working with mental health partners to bridge victims with mental health professionals. They were on scene within 24 hours.
  • Humanity Road is on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma supporting the local community with help getting online to research and apply for aid and recovery information.  In collaboration with local community centers and Disaster Tech Labs, the group is  helping to connect the public with aid providers.  Prior to its physical deployment, Humanity Road was activated to provide online surge support and monitored social media for significant weather reports and for reports of people who were stranded, trapped or otherwise in need in the initial minutes and hours after the tornado outbreak.
  • Operation USA is readying essential material aid– emergency, shelter and cleaning supplies– to send to where it’s most needed. Any funds collected for the disaster will be spent in Oklahoma helping community health organizations and schools recover from damage sustained from the severe storm system.
  • The Salvation Army is providing mobile feeding units to first responders and survivors.
  • Save the Children provides “child friendly spaces,” which offer supervised activites and play that help the children have relief from stress and fear, while parents have the freedom to take care of necessities in the wake of the storm’s devastation while knowing their children are safe and cared for. They are also ensuring shelters are equipped to handle the unique needs that children have.

The following funds were established to support Oklahoma recovery efforts:

  • Tulsa Community Foundation has created the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund to assist with the mid- and longer-term needs of those affected by the storm.George Kaiser Family Foundation has seeded this fund with the first $100,000.
  • OK Strong: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, in coordination with the United Way of Central Oklahoma, has established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to assist with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of victims of the May 20 tornado in Moore and the May 19 tornado near Shawnee.
  • Oklahoma City Community Foundation:  Established in May 1999, the Oklahoma Tornado Recovery Fund  directs 100% of gifts to assist with the needs of those impacted by the storms. Gifts to the Community Emergency Fund will be directed to nonprofit organizations who are providing immediate, direct assistance to those impacted by the May 20th tornado.  Contributions to the Oklahoma City Tornado Recovery Fund or Community Emergency Fund may be sent to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1146, Oklahoma City, OK, 73101-1146 or made online.
  • Network for Good makes it easy to find charities supporting Oklahoma recovery efforts.
  • Center For Disaster Philanthropy Disaster Recovery Fund: All donations made to the fund in June will support Oklahoma long-term recovery efforts.


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The National Weather Service defines tornadoes as “a violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm.” The U.S. is home to more tornadoes than any other country in the world, with approximately 900 to 1,700 tornadoes occurring a year throughout the country.