On Friday, not even two weeks after a destructive tornado ran through Moore, Oklahoma, another twister hit the city of El Reno. At last count, 18 people were confirmed dead, with six still missing, and the National Weather Service has not only categorized the storm as an EF-5--the highest on a scale of damage--but also as the widest tornado ever measured.
A mobile radar unit measured the storm at 2.6 miles across, according to the National Weather Service, making it wider than the previous record holder, a 2.5-mile twister that swept across Nebraska in 2004. That means it was considerably wider than the Moore tornado, too, which at most was two miles wide.
Tonados are bad and that is NOT new news and they have a tendancy to be happen more often in certain places. If I lived there, I either find a different place to live in the long run or yes build myself a protective shelter.
The El Reno, OK tornado is automatically newsworthy for PopSci because it was the widest ever measured and it killed veteran tornado researcher Tim Samaras of TWISTEX. Tim was very cautious, but the extreme width and weird path of this tornado appears to have caught him off guard. Despite his unexpected death, tornado warnings have become significantly more specific and useful in the last decade.
Tornadoes are extremely violent and localized weather events. The probability of being hit by a tornado is extremely low even during the most active times late afternoon in the Spring. Getting hit by a powerful EF-4 or EF-5 tornado that requires a dedicated tornado safe room or storm shelter is a couple orders of magnitude more rare than the smaller ones. As an example, a friend of my neighbor lives on 4th street in Moore. Her house is intact, but all the houses on the opposite side of the street are completely destroyed.