Before and After the Tornado: Satellite Shots of Moore

The Moore tornado killed 24 people and destroyed thousands of homes. But you can't understand the full extent of the devastation until you view it from far above

  • Share
  • Read Later

The tornado that struck on May 20 was 1.5 miles wide, so it cut an unusually wide swathe of destruction as it carved through Moore, Oklahoma. The photos of obliterated homes and ruined streets tell part of the story, as does—sadly—the death toll from the tornado, which now stands at 24. But it’s difficult to realize just how destructive this EF5 tornado was unless you pull back—way back.

These two satellite images, obtained from Google, show Moore before the tornado and after it. The first shot is Moore as it was on April 29,2013—a prosperous suburb of Oklahoma City. You can see neat streets and tidy cul-de-sacs, the houses packed closely together. The median income in Moore is $56,601, higher than nearby Oklahoma City, and it’s not hard to understand why the population of the town grew from just 17,000 people in 1970 to over 55,000 today. Moore is more densely populated than most towns in Tornado Alley, which is why so much property—and so many people—were in harm’s way when the tornado touched down at 2:56 PM on May 20.

Moore, Okla., seen before an EF-5 tornado devastated the town.
Moore, Okla., seen after an EF-5 tornado devastated the town.
Before: Google / Astrium, After: Google / DigitalGlobe

The second image was taken on May 22, and it speaks for itself. You can trace the path of the twister as it tore through the town, pulverizing buildings in a mile and a half wide band. Entire streets are all but wiped off the map, and the debris on the ground is visible even from space. The Plaza Towers Elementary School—where several children died—is gone. But what’s amazing is how selective the damage still seems. Beyond the footprint of the tornado, homes still stand, free of debris. Whether or not property was destroyed—whether or not lives were lost—depended on the whims of a cyclone as it meandered through this suburb.

(PHOTOS: Tornado Flattens Suburb Outside Oklahoma City, Kills Dozens)

Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornado, which hit Moore with winds in excess of 200 mph. The total damages could well exceed $2 billion, which may make the May 20 twister the most expensive to ever strike the U.S. And yet, looking from above, it seems as if it could have been so much worse.

Plaza Towers Elementary, seen before an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Plaza Towers Elementary, seen after an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Before: Google / Astrium, After: Google / DigitalGlobe
Briarwood Elementary, seen before an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Briarwood Elementary, seen after an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Before: Google / Astrium, After: Google / DigitalGlobe
Moore Medical Center, seen before an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Moore Medical Center, seen after an EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla.
Before: Google / Astrium, After: Google / DigitalGlobe

Click here to read TIME’s new cover story on the Moore tornado, available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now or purchase a digital access pass.

15 comments
abd.mub2
abd.mub2

فطاف عليها طائف من ربك وهم نائمون فأصبحت كالصريم

JanLFBfun
JanLFBfun like.author.displayName 1 Like

The views do not seem to match to me. I cannot match the left photos and right photos.

aurthorofcreation
aurthorofcreation

@JanLFBfun That is a slider in the middle click on it with your mouse and drag right and left. It shows before and after.

StephenSwain
StephenSwain

Short of moving to some place where earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes don't exist, one might suggest requiring all new homes and public buildings to have underground shelters.  Yes, it would cost a bit more, but what are 24 human lives worth?  What will be the material cost of healing those who have been injured?  The governor of Oklahoma was reluctant to say this should be required, two days after the event, but one suspects the legislature may have other ideas when the full scope of the destruction is fully understood.  This is the third time this area has been hit.  They need to make a new plan.

Axolotlwobblemaggot
Axolotlwobblemaggot

@StephenSwain Some poor people wouldn't be able to buy a house.  Would you favor a government subsidy?  I'd be OK with that but this is the US and that sounds like socialism...

JimSmay
JimSmay

Thank you TIME for this great overlay of the images.  Best I have seen!  Only one thing I would improve is that the track of the tornado was from left to right in these images, so making the after on the left and before on the right would be a bit more accurate.  Great job though!!

MikeLand
MikeLand

I should add that there is a mobile home park just a couple blocks south of the hospital that was wiped out.  That park was wiped out in the mid 70's by a tornado.  My uncle lived there and had some damage to his trailer.  He bought a home a few miles north that was later wiped out in May 3rd, 1999.  I have a buddy who sold his home in the edge of the damage path just four days before this one hit.  The escrow had closed and keys changed hands.  He wasn't happy about it because of the new owners.  Thankfully the home was not wiped out.

MikeLand
MikeLand

Makes me want to build a cement home like you see in the keys.  One of the actual ideas of Edison I actually like.  You can decorate it any way you like but the actual structure never moves.

ecperdue
ecperdue

This is intense, and such an eye opening picture of devastation....you always hear that one house will be fine and the other one complete annihilated during a tornado, but this is the best way I have ever seen it shown in pictures.  Amazing.

ARWest86
ARWest86 like.author.displayName 1 Like

you have to move the bar back and forth over the picture.

This comment has been deleted

rpearlston
rpearlston

@jiminaz There are before and after, by date, links below each picture.  Use them, and you'll see clearly that you are wrong.

This comment has been deleted


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,105 other followers