MILWAUKEE (WITI) — There are many ways to look at the tragedy in Oklahoma, after a tornado ripped through Moore, OK on Monday, May 20th. Many are looking at how they can help, but for meteorologists, it’s all about what can be learned from this storm.
“It’s awe-some. I mean, it’s all inspiring, but it’s sickening as well,” Mike Westendorf said.
Westendorf, meteorologist and operations director of UW-Milwaukee’s Innovative Weather Center says the magnitude of the storm system that struck Oklahoma is fascinating, but the devastation left behind is not.
“In the sense that, you know, that there are lives that have been just utterly turned upside down and you’re watching it unfold and, you know, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Westendorf said.
Dozens died Monday when the storm roared through the OKC suburb of Moore on Monday.
“This is the super cell. This is the area of rotation. This would be the mesocyclone and so this is the hook. This is the one as a meteorologist that we would say ‘that’s significant,'” Westendorf said.
Technology tells Westendorf that a lot of structures were wrapped into the storm and lifted into the air — some 15,000 feet.
“When you see a debris ball, you know that you’re probably dealing with an EF-3, EF-4 or larger storm — something that’s able to really chew things up and get enough debris into the air to form that kind of a return,” Westendorf said.
The tornado’s track was 20 miles, taking a slow 40 minutes to travel.
UWM alumnus Chris Spannagle, who now works for the National Weather Service, was storm chasing about 40 miles from OKC on Monday.
“It’s going out there and seeing your forecast in action. You’re out there verifying your forecast. If you have a really good handle on meteorology and you know what you’re doing it’s not as dangerous as it’s made out to be,” Spannagle said.
Spannagle and Westendorf say the storm will be researched, and experts will look for ways to better predict this kind of storm to give people more warning.
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