Mother Nature has Moore, Okla., residents wondering yet again, why here?
The bedroom community south of downtown Oklahoma City is in the heart of the nation’s so-called tornado alley and has been a frequent target for twisters. Of the nine funnels to hit between 1998 and 2013, four of them were big enough to claim lives and cause catastrophic damage.
On Wednesday, as an unusually slow U.S. tornado season got off to a violent start, it happened again.
For 12 minutes during the evening commute, a tornado packing winds estimated at 100 mph tore through the storm-tested town. Electrician Dean Mitchell and two of his colleagues were driving home from a job site when the twister trapped them and other drivers on Interstate 35 in Moore.
“It’s like right in front of us,” one of the men exclaims on a video that Mitchell posted to Facebook. “Look! Look! Get away from the window!”
The men shout and swear as wind rocks their van and pounds it with debris. Then their camera captures a tractor-trailer being toppled just two lanes over.
“It’s going past us. We’re all right,” one of them says, more than 30 harrowing seconds later.
No lives were lost in Moore on Wednesday, but a handful of people were treated for injuries. Homes, schools, cars and businesses suffered significant damage. Winds even brought down a radio station’s iconic transmission towers.
Social media users were quick to comment on the eerie similarities between the path of the storm this week and the 14-mile-long path of the 1-mile-wide monster twister that ravaged the region in 2013.
“You can see the path where the May 20, 2013, tornado went through... scary!” Allison said.
“If you know what you're looking for you can see the path of the last one,” JD commented.
“It looks like tornadoes have an attraction to Moore,” JW Groningen wrote.
Yahoo News national correspondent and Oklahoma native Holly Bailey writes that Moore’s streak of bad luck has prompted some to call the town the “tornado alley of tornado alley.”
Even renowned tornado researcher Tom Grazulis woke up Thursday morning asking himself, “Why Moore?"
“Well, there is no answer to that question,” Grazulis told Yahoo News. “Tornadoes are extremely hard to pin down.”
The longtime meteorologist, author and founder of the Tornado Project database said that anything at this point would be a hunch. Historically, the most intense twisters used to strike northwest of Oklahoma City. Now those storms, he said, seem to track southeast of the capital city.
Whether that’s due to climate change or random clustering is anyone’s guess, Grazulis said.
“If you flip coins, you’ll get so many in a row. Then you won’t get any in a row,” he said. “It’s a tough one.”
While most in Moore expect more than their fair share of severe weather, Wednesday’s twister caught several residents by surprise.
Angela Madory, 43, had kept an eye on weather conditions all day.
“The worst was forecast to be north of Oklahoma City,” said the wife and mother of three. “Nobody had said it’s gonna hit Moore. Then all of a sudden, there’s a tornado on the ground in Moore.”
She was scrambling to get to church but retreated back inside her house.
“That’s a tornado, folks,” Morgan urgently told his viewers.
As the station’s helicopter pilot and storm spotter worked to plot the twister’s location, Morgan cut back in.
“Moore folks!” he shouted. “There’s no tornado warning from the weather service, but I promise you that this is a tornado on the ground.”
The National Weather Service in nearby Norman issued the first tornado warning at 6:41 p.m., six minutes after a police officer spotted the twister near where Oklahoma City and Moore meet.
The NWS issues forecast warnings, but it is up to cities to sound local sirens. It was still unclear on Thursday which parts of Moore did or did not hear sirens. Rick Smith, NWS warning coordination meteorologist, told the Oklahoman that officials would investigate public concerns about what happened when.
“This is a very legitimate question, and one every one of us is concerned with. We have family, too. Everyone in this office lives near or has family in the area,” Smith told the newspaper.
Thursday afternoon, the weather service issued a written statement calling what happened “complicated.”
“The storms that produced the damage are difficult to anticipate and extremely difficult to warn for,” the statement reads. “They are not uncommon in Oklahoma. Fortunately, tornadoes that happen in these scenarios represent the lower end of the tornado intensity spectrum and don’t pose the same dangers when compared to the tornadoes we saw back in May 2013.”
Madory, who lives on the east side of Moore, was thankful that the sirens did sound by the time the twister reached her end of town.
“It was crazy,” she said. “It’s like we’re the bull's-eye.”
But is another direct hit enough to cause her to leave?
“No way — I love it here!” she said.
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).