In Brief

Moore Tornado Debris Would Make Mile-High Pile

weather, tornadoes, tornado history, safety
Damage caused by the F5 tornado that struck Moore, Okla., on May 3, 1999, one of the stronger tornadoes on record. (Image credit: NWS)

With search and recovery done, residents of Moore, Okla., are beginning the long process of cleanup and rebuilding, sifting through the debris for precious mementos and letting removal teams clear away the rest. While the exact amount of debris generated by the massive EF5 tornado isn't yet known, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management estimated that nearly 4,000 homes and businesses were wiped out, according to The Associated Press. That figure would be about half of that of the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., in 2011, the AP says.

The Joplin tornado created 3 million cubic yards of debris, so cutting that figure in half for Moore would create a pile of debris that would cover an NBA basketball court to a height of 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers), the AP said.

The debris from the May 20, 2013, tornado will be taken to a landfill, where some items, such as bricks, will be recycled, but others — like wood, clothing and paper — will be incinerated. The federal government normally pays for 75 percent of debris removal, but President Barack Obama, who visited the area over the Memorial Day weekend, has authorized it to pay for 85 percent of removal costs over the first 30 days and 80 percent for the following 60, the AP reported.

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Andrea Thompson
Live Science Contributor

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.