An EF-4 tornado with winds of 166-175 mph swept through Oklahoma and Missouri Saturday, killing 21 people. Hardest hit were the towns of Picher, OK, where six died, and Seneca, MO, where ten died. The violent tornado was up to a mile wide. It's been an unusually early and violent tornado season in the U.S. There have been 905 tornadoes so far this year, a total usually not seen until late July (Figure 1). Saturday's deaths bring the 2008 U.S. tornado death toll up to 96--the most tornado fatalities since 1998, when 130 people died. With at least another month left in peak tornado season, 2008 ranks as the 12th deadliest year in the 59-year record. The Picher tornado was the sixth violent EF-4 tornado of the year.
Amazing video: why not to take shelter in your car during a tornado
If you haven't seen it, the video captured by a surveillance camera during the Leighton, Alabama tornado on May 8 is a stunning testimonial of why one should not try to escape a tornado using a car. The EF-2 tornado with winds of 111-135 mph picked up cars like toys and tossed them into the air. A large number of tornado deaths and injuries occur when people try to escape the twister in their car and get caught by the violent winds.
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