Friday, 31 May 2013
It’s difficult to even begin describing the events that unfolded today. It was my final chase day of my second trip out to the plains and I knew the conditions were coming together for at least one large, violent tornado across central Oklahoma. I just didn’t know if I would be able to get into position to see a tornado, though I would do everything in my power to do so. Well I did, and at close range.
My friend Jesse decided to come along for this chase and I’m really glad he did. Both for the good company to share the experience with, and also so he could drive! That way I could focus all my attention on the data, navigating and shooting video. I had targeted the area surrounding Kingfisher, but we hung back east a bit just west of Guthrie all afternoon to be just a bit ahead of the storms when they initiated. We ended up driving into Kingfisher anyways once towers went up and then south a bit. At that time there were three supercells all competing with one another. But the southernmost cell suddenly exploded and that’s pretty much when it became obvious this cell – headed towards and just southwest of El Reno – was the cell of the day.
Upon reaching El Reno we drove west on I-40 and pulled off at an exit. We could see the meso of the supercell, but the tornado from our vantage point was either wrapped in rain or further to the southwest. So we turned around and headed east and shot south a couple miles on a country road. As soon as we got about 1 mile to the south we could seen a tornado to our southwest by three or four miles. There was actually a lot of ‘traffic’ on this road with chasers and mostly locals kinda blocking the road..especially a couple cops storm spotting. We were able to get around all of them and get into good position northeast of the tornado.
After a few minutes we were forced to drive east as heavy rain near the vault approached. We tried going south but the rain bands wrapping around the actual meso to the south around the tornado were massive. So I decided we should head back to the north/south country road and get back to I-40. That proved difficult at first because a chaser actually blocked the road for about 30 seconds with the large, rain wrapped tornado less than 1 mile to our south!
Well, we made it to I-40 and the plan was to get east fast and re-position. However, after going three or four miles east the tornado emerged out of the rain to the southwest as a dark stovepipe!
We stopped the car and watched as this tornado became a monster wedge/multi-vortex! The tornado came within an extremely short distance to us before I decided we needed to drive east and get ahead of it. It actually came so close that not only could I hear the roar of the tornado, but I could literally feel the pressure from the tornado. It was almost as if I could feel the power of the tornado right up next me. There really isn’t anything anymore intimidating than that. For a moment time stood still and nothing felt real. Words just can’t describe it.