May 20, 2013 A powerful F5 tornado struck the city of Moore, Oklahoma leaving 24 confirmed dead (including school children) and hundreds of people injured in its path. The financial impact of the tornado and the extensive property destruction is expected to exceed $US2 billion.
Did You Know? The city of Moore, Oklahoma was also damaged by significant tornadoes on October 4, 1998, May 3, 1999, May 8, 2003, May 10, 2010, and on May 20, 2013. The May 3, 1999 tornado that hit Moore was rated an F5 on the Fujita scale, and was one of the strongest (Probably the strongest single tornado ever) and most destructive tornadoes in world history.
The tornado, which occurred during the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak, had an approximate recorded wind speed of 320 mph (510 km/h), the highest speed on the first F-Scale, left a swath of destruction over 1 mile (1.6 km) wide at times, and 38 miles (60 km) long. It killed a total of 36 people in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
This was the deadliest F5 tornado recorded since the Delhi, Louisiana tornado in 1971 although several tornadoes from 2011 eclipsed this mark, today's tornado may change that statistic. We can only hope for the best.
Oklahoma was home to Native American Indians long before European explorers arrived, and one look at Oklahoma's flag - and the state's significant part in the history of American Indians becomes quickly apparent.
In the late 17th century, the French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle boldly claimed all of the land drained by Mississippi River for France; then named it the "Louisiana Territory" in honor of his King, Louis XIV.
The French continued to develop their claims in the Americas, much to the dismay of the long-established Spanish, and for the next century this valuable land was alternately controlled by both countries.
In 1800, when Napoleon Bonaparte's armies moved across Europe, pressing Spain into a corner, the Territory of Louisiana (New Orleans) and a huge slice of land in the now central United States (including Oklahoma) was ceded to France by Spain via a treaty.
In 1803, with war pressures mounting, Napoleon approved the sale of the entire area to the United States in a transaction named the Louisiana Purchase and the United States doubled in size almost overnight.
As settlers from America's eastern cities spread west, this land we now call Oklahoma remained (for the most part) the domain of Indians because of its isolated geographical position. Then, in the early 19th century, the U.S. Government saw an opportunity to use this Indian Territory as a potential long-term home for southern Indians, and over time they literally forced those Indians to migrate there.
History records this shameful part of America's history, and especially the infamous migration known as the "Trail of Tears." Cherokee Indians, as well as Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes (and others) were forced to migrate here, and countless Indians perished during their rigorous journey.
The Oklahoma area was then officially established as Indian Territory and the tribes began to settle in; they farmed the land, raised their families, and for the most part lived in peace, as treaties kept white pioneers out of their new homeland for a brief moment in time.
Then America's Civil War, cattle drives moving north from Texas, and railroad expansion quickly changed the Indian's status quo; land greed took control as settlers (ignoring treaties) moved in. In 1890, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Oklahoma, and eventually Indian holdings were greatly reduced - basically stolen. In 1907, the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were united to form the State of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma (today) has the largest Indian population in the U.S., as over 60 tribes call it home; Apache Indian Chief Geronimo is buried here, and across its land the art and artifacts of a culture (not forgotten) are reflected in numerous historic sites and museums dedicated to the spirit of the American Indian.
Today, after surviving the severe drought and depression of the 1930s, Oklahoma is a wonderful mix of modern cities, small towns, cattle ranches and farms, and the fascinating, touchable cultures of a day gone by.
In 1995, when a terrorist bomb killed 168 people in Oklahoma City, the world took note. Through the mourning and the tears Oklahoma and its resilient people stood tall, as they truly personify the enduring spirit of the United States of America.