At least five people were reported dead Monday night in Oklahoma after severe weather caused tornadoes to form across parts of the southern Plains, with some touching down with deadly force in the Oklahoma City area.
The storm cut a path of destruction that flipped over vehicles on roads and flattened or splintered houses. In news footage from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, some houses appeared to have simply been shaven from their foundations. A video also showed a tornado rapidly crossing a highway, dwarfing speeding cars as it continued along a grassy field.
A tornado (often referred to as a twister or, erroneously, a cyclone) is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, but are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (177 km/h), are approximately 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles (several kilometers) before dissipating. The most extreme can attain wind speeds of more than 300 mph (480 km/h), stretch more than two miles (3 km) across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles (more than 100 km.