The worst tornado in the history of the planet

So I’ve read a couple of stories in the past day about tornadoes that have ravaged Oklahoma this week and in 1999. I keep seeing reference to the 1999 tornado being the worst ever on the planet. This story says: “On May 3, 1999, a record-setting EF-5 tornado obliterated the city of 55,000 with winds measured at 318 mph, the highest ever on the earth’s surface.”

As I’m reading these claims, I’m immediately drawn to the words of Kip Dynamite when he said “Napoleon, like anyone could even know that.”

So how could any even know these are the highest wind speeds ever to occur on the earth’s surface? (I assume they’re referring to the wind speed.)

As in, those are the highest speeds ever measured. Obviously there have been many other wind speeds that haven’t been measured, some of them probably even higher.


The writer also misuses the word “obliterate” in the same sentence, so it’s probably not wise to expect precise language.

Two related things. I seem to recall an article awhile back where researchers thought it might even be possible for tornado winds to exceed the speed of sound :eek:

And I seem to recall that back in the depression? dustbowl? era there was a massive tornado. IIRC it was so wide that it still has the experts wondering how that was even possible and that it might even be a rare different class of tornado. Does that story ring a bell with anyone?

wind measuring devices do blow away or get smashed by flying objects.

about 250 mph has been measured directly. about 300 mph by radar.

the Tri-state tornado of March 18, 1925, killed 695. it was a F5 that went 220 miles.

about 1300 deaths in Bangladesh on 26 April 1989

I recall reading about an historic tornado with a two-mile wide funnel which struck around that era, which seemed pretty incredible to me and may be the incident you’re referring to. However I believe more recent tornado’s have been measured with as large or even larger funnels (which still seems pretty incredible to me!)

It should be noted that the wind in the 1999 tornado was measured above the ground and only briefly. Wind speed at the ground would probably have been less.

I drive through the forest hit by the extremely rare multi-vortice EF5 that passed through up here last year. It’s… sobering.

You shouldn’t drink and drive.

I also should double-check before I post such things. I see that the Springfield tornado was eventually downgraded to a mere EF3.

There’s a nice picture of the forest in the Scottish Wiki page, though.

I’m probably being dense, but what does ‘the Scottish Wiki’ mean?

See: the Scottish Play. And count me in the ranks of those who pretty much despise everything… the Scottish Wiki stands for and represents.

I see, I think, thanks, and so as not to derail this thread I’ll just say I respectfully disagree regarding your opinion on wikipedia. :slight_smile:

This is certainly the right answer.

Who’s to say that there wasn’t some Pleistocene or Jurassic mega-tornado that we have no record of, with winds above 400 mph?

Of the ones we’ve measured, that OKC one may be the current leader.

Ah, sensationalistic journalism then. Very misleading the way the writer phrased it.

No, highest measured wind speed is a real thing, and breaking the record was a big deal. They’ve been keeping records for well over 100 years and have measured a lot of big storms (hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes) and if a storm has the record is means something. Yes, there most likely have been higher winds somewhere, sometime, but the storm that produced the current record was a monster.

The tornado tonight near Oklahoma City may break the record. There are preliminary reports of 290 knot winds (333 mph) being indicated on radar.

ETA: I may have spoke too soon, I think that was a velocity couplet being measured, which means the wind moving toward the radar vs the wind moving away from it in a rotating tornado. They’re saying it may be a record breaker, but that’s not necessarily indicative of the highest wind.

This Wikipedia entry says of nuclear blasts:

Tornado History map. You can search by state, size and so on.

I have it set here for Arkansas F4’s. Pretty chilling results. It didn’t show any F5’s.

The map coding is a bit clunky. You have to press Search Reset to change the search. It’s the green button just to the right of Submit.