The 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado (locally referred to as the May 3rd tornado) was an extremely powerful F5 tornado in which the highest wind speeds ever measured globally, 301 miles per hour (484 km/h), were recorded by a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar.
The tornado devastated southern portions of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, along with surrounding suburbs and towns during the early evening of May 3, 1999. Throughout its 85-minute existence, the tornado covered 38 miles (61 km), destroying thousands of homes, killing 36 people (plus an additional five indirectly), and leaving US$1 billion in damage, ranking it as the fifth-costliest on record, not accounting for inflation.
The tornado first touched down at 6:23 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT) in Grady County, roughly two miles (3.2 km) south-southwest of Amber. It quickly intensified into a violent F4, and gradually reached F5 status after traveling 6.5 miles (10.5 km), at which time it struck the community of Bridge Creek. Once it moved through the unincorporated community, it fluctuated in strength, ranging from F2 to F5 status before it crossed into Cleveland County. Not long after entering the county, it reached F5 intensity for a third time as it moved through the city of Moore.
By 7:30 p.m. CDT, the tornado crossed into Oklahoma County and battered southeastern Oklahoma City, Del City and Midwest City, before dissipating around 7:48 p.m. CDT just outside Midwest City. In terms of structural losses, a total of 8,132 homes, 1,041 apartments, 260 businesses, 11 public buildings and seven churches were damaged or destroyed.
In the wake of the tornado, large-scale search and rescue operations took place in the affected areas. A major disaster declaration was signed by President Bill Clinton the following day (May 4), allowing for the state to receive federal aid. In the following months, disaster aid amounted to $67.8 million.
In light of the fatalities that occurred under highway overpasses, the notion of them being safe areas to seek shelter was dismissed, and they were from then on considered to be one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado. Reconstruction projects in subsequent years led to a safer, tornado-ready community. In May 2013, similar areas adjacent to the 1999 storm’s track were again devastated by an EF5 tornado, resulting in 24 fatalities and extreme damage in Moore.