Interactive Story Map: Return from Catastrophe: Moore, Oklahoma

Main content

Students explore an interactive Story Map about a tornado that impacted the community of Moore, Oklahoma with classmates, describe the impacts, and how the community worked to recover.

Learning Goal

Students understand how data and geospatial technology can describe how people in communities were affected, mitigated the impacts, and worked to restore their community after a tornado.

Learning Objectives

  • Students explore an interactive Story Map about the aftermath of the Moore tornado and summarize key points.
  • Student groups present information about their location, impacts, and recovery.
  • Students communicate the impacts of the Moore tornado on a map.



Introduction and motivation

  1. Read a few of the news headlines aloud.
  2. Have students generate questions based on the news headlines. Post these questions in the classroom and revisit them at the end of the activity.
  3. Introduce students to tornadoes and to the Moore tornado, the subject of this case study. The Moore tornado affected an entire town in Oklahoma and caused a lot of damage, so it made news in many places.
  4. Tell students that, for this project, they will explore parts of the town of Moore, Oklahoma through an interactive Story Map to answer the following question: What was the impact of the tornado on places and people, and how did the town recover?

Intellectual engagement

  1. Provide students with an orientation to the town of Moore, Oklahoma by projecting a Google map of the town on a screen or having students explore it on their computers or tablets.
  2. Familiarize students with the interactive Story Map and Student Sheet A. (Consider using a projector to demonstrate how to navigate the Story Map. Show students how to move the gray "before and after" bar.)
  3. Divide students in groups of two or three and assign each group a number between one and eight. (Repeat the sequence if there are more than eight groups in the classroom.
  4. Tell students that their group number corresponds to a tab in the Story Map that they will investigate.
  5. Have students work with their group to complete Student Sheet A and discuss their notes.
  6. You may wish for students to make PowerPoint slides or other presentation materials that they will share with the class and include a combination of detail, images, and quotes they found during their research.
  7. In a jigsaw method, student groups present information about their findings to the rest of the class. During presentations, students in the audience take notes (using Student Sheet B) and ask questions of the presenting group.


  1. You may consider having a large map of the city of Moore up on the wall or on the projector so that students can pinpoint the location of their assigned area by placing their poster or a printout of their PowerPoint slide.
  2. Have students explore the areas of impact in the town of Moore spatially, including how all of their stories fit into the narrative of the town. Encourage class discussion by asking which areas were affected the most and which areas needed the most recovery work.

Adaptation for high interest/low reading level: Use only the titles of each tab in the Story Map and allow the students to interact with the map to visually explore. Engage them in class discussion about the various impacts and recovery efforts.

Note: The eight tabs are on the left side of the screen.

Return from Catastrophe: Moore, Oklahoma a Year After the Tornado story map screenshot. Students can be divided into groups corresponding to the eight tabs at the top of the story map.


Ask students to come up with three assessment questions for their classmates based on the interactive Story Map. You can either gather all of the questions and chose some for a written assessment, or have the students create a game for participation from the entire class.




Storms such as thunderstorms and hurricanes become even more dangerous when they spawn tornadoes. A dark funnel cloud extends down below the clouds of the storm. If it does not reach the ground, then it is called a funnel cloud. If it does reach the ground, it’s a tornado. Debris and dust are kicked up where the narrow end of the funnel touches the ground.

Tornadoes, also called twisters, are columns of air rotating dangerously fast. The air is in motion because of the difference in pressure between the center of tornado (very low pressure) and the outer edge of the tornado (high pressure). Some tornadoes are narrow, only 250 feet (75 meters) across where they touch the ground. Other, massive tornadoes can be up to two miles across. Often a tornado will touch the ground for only a few minutes and travel less than a mile. But some tornadoes touchdown for much longer, plowing through several towns, neighborhoods or farms.

After a tornado has come and gone, scientists look at the amount of damage that it caused to figure out the strength of the twister. They use the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale - six categories that describe how tornado damage relates to wind speeds. According to the scale, EF0 is the weakest tornado category with gusts up to 85 mph (135 kph) and EF5 is the strongest tornado with wind gusts over 200 mph (320 kph).

In general, tornadoes fall into three types: weak tornadoes, strong tornadoes, and violent tornadoes based on the tornado size, how long it lasts, and how much damage it causes.

  • Weak tornadoes usually last less than 10 minutes, have winds less than 100 mph (160 kph), and cause damage such as broken tree branches and damaged roofs. Over two-thirds of all tornadoes are weak. Weak tornadoes include those in the first two categories of the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF0 & EF1).
  • Strong tornadoes can last 20 minutes or longer and have winds between 110-205 mph (177-330 kph) - strong enough to demolish mobile homes and overturn trains. Nearly a third of tornadoes are strong and they cause nearly a third of all tornado-related deaths.
  • Violent tornadoes can last over an hour and have wind speeds greater than 205 mph (330 kph). These monster tornadoes are able to toss cars and houses into the air and carry them for miles. While violent tornadoes are the least common, they are the most deadly, causing over two-thirds of all tornado-related deaths. A violent tornado is part of the last two categories on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF4 & EF5).

Tornadoes can occur anywhere in the world. About 75% of the world’s tornadoes form in the United States - most in an area of the central United States called Tornado Alley.


  • After the Oklahoma Tornado: This Qualcomm article includes points about forecasting, improved warnings, more resilient structures, and personal responsibility from a meteorologist and can be used for your personal background knowledge. In a class discussion, encourage students to reflect on lessons learned from the Moore tornado experience. What improvements can we make as a society to be better prepared in the future?
  • Reflections on the deadly tornadoes in central Oklahoma: SOARS Protégé reflects on the tornado research he conducted at the same time as the Moore tornado occurred. He discusses his personal feelings, as well as his appreciation of the National Weather Service. Encourage students to reflect on the case study they investigated in the interactive Moore Story Map. Who were the unsung heroes in their case studies - either serving to protect the people of Moore or working on the reconstruction of the community?
  • Have students find the GPS coordinates of the building(s) they are researching. As each group presents their findings to the class, have the students mark the location of the building(s) on the map of Moore.
  • Inside Twisters: Creating Scientific News Reports on Tornadoes: This New York Times lesson plan incorporates the Moore, Oklahoma case study, science, and journalism to guide student learning.
  • Weather in the News: In this activity, students compare stories about a weather event from different media sources and different perspectives.