Friday, May 27, 2011

Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak 2011

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Why haven't I posted in awhile?

This is why.  The May 24, 2001 tornado outbreak with 50 tornadoes...the majority in Oklahoma.  A few tornadoes threatened to destroy the Oklahoma City Metro.  Unfortunately, at least 10 people lost their lives in the tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma last Tuesday.  Please pray for the families who lost a loved one.

On Tuesday, May 24 I was assigned to my normal shift, the noon show.  During the noon show I made sure to emphasize the potential danger ahead.
In case you are not familiar with the Storm Prediction Center's risk scale, there are 3 ratings: slight, moderate, and high risk.  A high risk is rarely issued.  It is issued when there is a high risk for dangerous severe weather situation, often involving the potential for large, long track tornadoes.  Unfortunately, this forecast verified with the first storms going up near Elk City, Oklahoma around 2:30PM.  This is the storm I chased where I witnessed a wedge tornado near Longdale, Oklahoma.  Check out this incredible viewer video of the tornado as it moved across Canton Lake.

As I made a sharp turn to face the wedge tornado, something flew beneath my feet as I was driving.  Turns out it was the power converter.  All of our equipment shut off...including our stream.  It's very unfortunate.  Thankfully, my chase partner and photojournalist, Jason, had a calm demeanor and managed to figure it out and hook things back up.  We were able to get the stream back up and running in time to broadcast the end of this tornado as it "roped out" near the town of Fairview, Oklahoma.

While I was storm chasing, I noticed the storms developing rapidly just Southwest of the Metro.  A wedge tornado ended up forming near the town of Binger at 3:40PM.  This "grinder" managed to stay on the ground for nearly 2 hours...destroying the towns of El Reno and Piedmont in its path.  This is where the majority of fatalities occurred.  Check out the paths of reported tornadoes in the National Weather Service's preliminary analysis map shown below.

Part of the reason why I worked so hard to get a job in Oklahoma City is for its unique and thorough coverage of extreme weather events. This tornadic outbreak perfectly exemplifies this TV market's superior severe weather coverage.  I am honored to be a part of it and firmly believe the wide net of coverage saved lives this day.  My station's coverage was so riveting that several national networks carried our news stream for 45 minutes plus...including MSNBC, CNN, and The Weather Channel.

When I was storm chasing I noticed storms were slamming the Metro.  Since I was out chasing, I was out of the loop as to what was going on to our South.  Suddenly, I was flooded with nearly 15 text messages asking if I was okay.  This is when I assumed we were getting National coverage of something big....boy, was I right!
A big kudos to:
1. My Chief Meteorologist Mike Morgan for organizing the crews out in the field and in the air and for fronting the radar for nearly 8 hours.
2. The people behind the scenes, including former weather interns Robert Moose and Chris Vagasky who covered the latest weather reports and drove the radar for Mike.  This also includes our directors, producers, and audio crew.
3. The news department for sending out crews to cover damage right after a tornado hit.
4. Bob Moore Chopper 4 HD.  He has the most amazing tornado coverage ever. Period.
5. David Payne, Mike Bennett, and Troy Christensen.  Fellow storm chasers covering the storms up close and personal.  
Here is a picture of Storm Chaser David Payne (our morning Meteorologist), Chopper Pilot Jim Gardner, and me (Left to Right).
But this is the video the world is talking about from May 24th - 

David Payne has been storm chasing for nearly 20 years he knows what he is doing.  However, he did get a little too close this chase.  Make sure to watch all the way to the end.  It is not tornadic winds   picking up the power lines...but likely strong inflow or RFD.  Either way, it was a scary situation for Meteorologist David Payne and Photojournalist Kevin Josefy.

Friends and family said they heard my voice on the air on MSNBC and on the Today Show.  It's likely from later in the day when my photojournalist, Jason, and I slammed South to meet up with what was left from the El Reno/Piedmont monster as it headed towards the town of Guthrie.
Unfortunately, we were driving through a rain-wrapped storm, which made it impossible to see any tornadic activity.
We were 5-10 miles North of the town of Guthrie when a tornado was 5 miles Southwest of the we were pretty close. Thank God we were okay, but the gusts and lightning were vicious!

Needless to say, I haven't had much time to focus on triathlon training. I did manage to get a few short workouts in here and there.  I planned a vacation home several months ago for Memorial Day weekend. Obviously, it's not perfect timing...but at least I was in Oklahoma for the big outbreak!  This weekend I am celebrating my best friend's bachelorette party!  I may or may not post pictures from that all depends how appropriate they are :)  I finally got the chance to sleep in today and have a long work out. I ran for nearly 1.5 hours!  I think that's the longest I've ran...ever!
Orchesis" sweatshirt, which didn't help.  I ran through the bird streets and managed to get lost, as usual.  Anyone from this area knows what I'm talking about!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and be safe! I'll catch up with you all later!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Junk in the Trunk, Dunk in the Tank

Please donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma goal is $5,000 and every dollar counts! Just click here!

I figured this title would catch some attention!  I am referring to my padded bike shorts, of course!  Each Saturday morning our TNT Tri group has a team practice.  This morning we met at Lake Hefner at 9:30am.  Getting up for a 9:30am workout is a training in itself for me.  I made the mistake of heading out the door without eating breakfast.  I figured the cheese fries I devoured the night before would carry over.  Not so much and it made it a bit more challenging to get around the Lake.  That and the Oklahoma WIND!  We all did 2 laps which is about 20 miles.  Then a new TNT friend, Jenna and I went for a short run.  I guess the practice of going from cycling to running is called "bricks."  Now I know why! It feels like you are not moving at all when you try to run!  I guess we were running at a decent pace for our first mile...but I know at this time there would be no way to run a half marathon after what I cycled...let alone 2.5 times that!  I guess it's something I will be working on!

Afterwards, I headed to volunteer at the second annual Rescue Day & Dog Wash to raise money for local animal shelters.  How did I help? The DUNK TANK, of course.  Man, I did not know what I was getting myself into!
I would have stayed in there all day had the water not been so freezing!!!  And let me tell you, it was the kids that dunked me the most....not the adults!  It was a fun event!  I loved seeing all of the dogs and their owners walking around, it reminds me of our family dog back home in Chicago.  Her name is Millie.
There were about a dozen local animal rescues and shelters at the event.  It made me so sad to know they don't have a home!  I wanted to take home a cocker spaniel from the Oklahoma Cocker Rescue.  But I know the kind of commitment dogs require, so I am waiting for the right time to adopt a new friend.  Once I cleaned up I headed to work where I covered 2 tornado warnings! Whew! It's been a long day! Time to watch my DVRed SNL with Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Got to Start Somewhere

Hello, everyone!  Thanks for checking out my blog.  I'm not going to lie...I've tried started a blog two or three times before and I've given up after a few entries.  This time will be different because I have a cause fueling the fire!

This first entry is to just familiarize you with this whole Team in Training concept.  I first heard about this organization from one of my college roommates, Emily Ferner...well, now it's Emily Elmore!
About a year ago she ran the Nike's Women's Marathon in San Francisco.  It really impressed me considering how steep the course is in San Fran.  I am also inspired by one of my sorority sisters, Lauren Rinck.  She started out with a Team in Training Triathlon a few years back and now she is a professional Triathlete! Way to go, Lauren!

The Cause

Team in Training (TNT) exists to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma. It also looks to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.  There are currently more than 747,000 Americans living with blood cancer and every ten minutes a life is claimed by it.  Leukemia is one of the leading causes of death in children between the ages of 1-15.  The good news is that the survival rate has risen from 4% in 1960 to 86% in the last decade.  This is in part due to the money that The Leukemia  & Lymphoma Society has raised to aid researchers in their fight to find cures for this disease.

TNT is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's largest fund-raising program, bringing in nearly 98 million dollars this past year alone.  Each participant in the program pledges to raise a certain amount of money during the 4-5 months they train for their event.  I have set a personal goal to raise at least $5,000 for doing the Oklahoma City Redman Triathlon and 75% of every dollar spent at the Society goes to research, patient services and education.  I am raising money in honor of a few family friends.  As soon as I get a few pictures, I will post their stories in a future entry, so please stay tuned!  In the meanwhile, here is my personal fundraising page.  You can donate online through the please pass it along!

The Event

TNT offers nearly endurance events including marathons, cycling, and triathlons.  I enjoy running but I wouldn't go as far to say that I LOVE it. So the idea of running 26.2 miles does not sound like a fun idea. A triathlon switches things up by doing an open water swim, cycle, and run.  Other events offered fly participants to all different parts of the country.  While I love traveling, I love the idea of doing the event right here in my new home, Oklahoma City.  The Oklahoma City Redman features an Ironman and Half Ironman course.  I am doing the half which is a 1.2 mile open water swim in Lake Hefner, a 56 mile cycle course, and a 13.1 (half marathon) run.  The run alone seems ambitious considering the only I've ever done is a 10K (6.2 miles).  Granted, it wasn't just ANY 10K.  I ran with my friend, Leah Rubertino, in Johnson City, Tennessee about a year ago for a Saint Patrick's Day event.  I thought I trained by the steep hills of Tennessee and the cold, rainy conditions kicked my butt! Hey, I got through it without stopping and that's all I hoped for!

Swimming is the reason I chose to do a triathlon.  I have a strong swim background.  I started swim lessons at the minimum age of 6 and graduated at 8. Since I graduated so young, my mom didn't know how to keep me entertained while my little brother finished swim school.  She ended up enrolling me in the park district swim team the PIONEER PIRANHAS, and my love for competitive swimming began.  Pioneer pool also gave me my first (and possibly best) job as a lifeguard and swim instructor for most of my high school summers.  I continued swim team through high school and earned the title of JV Captain!  I loved joking and swimming with all of my friends.

Moving on to college, one summer I was a camp counselor at the YMCA's Camp Lakewood in Potosi, Missouri.  My experience at Camp Lakewood could be a whole 'nother blog entry because I LOVED it!  The point I want to make here is that I swam in the Lake nearly every day.  By the end of the summer a few of the other camp counselors and I swam the long way across the lake - a little over a mile.  For this reason, I know I'm capable of doing a 1.2 mile open water swim!

Cycling is a different story.  Apparently my old school Target-priced Schwin will not cut it for this one!  I've gone on bike rides from time to time and even rode on the Katy Trail in Missouri on my mountain bike.  The most I think I've ever ridden is 8 miles.  So I have NO idea how to get up to 56 miles especially since I don't even own a bike!  Well, I changed that last part a week ago by dropping a whole ton of money on a road bike.  I had NO idea how expensive bikes an get!  I purchased my bike through one of Team in Training's supporters, Steve Schlegel.  Last Thursday I spent almost 3 hours learning about the different types of bikes and equipment and getting a custom fitting session.  What I learned is there are mountain, hybrid, road, and triathlon bikes.  For my race the most appropriate choice would be a triathlon bike but they are HELLA expensive! I am talking about a starting price of $1,500.  FOR REAL.  There are bikes in the store that go for $14,000! Can you believe it?!  I guess people drop thousands of dollars on fancy cars so it would make sense for people to do the same for bikes.  Unfortunately, meteorology does not pay like an NBA allstar so I stuck with a mid-price range road bike.

Here it is! It is a Cannondale. People have asked me specific questions like what gauge? I don't know. I'm pretty clueless in this area.  What I DO know is that I am happy with my bike.  After buying the bike, I learned how to take the wheel on and off and load it into my car.  I drove to Lake Hefner and I felt like I flew around the lake! These bikes DO go really fast.
We've all seen them...the hardcore cyclists wearing their helmets, sunglasses, tight outfits, and nerdy padded shorts.  Well guess what? I'm one of them now! Sidenote, the padded shorts are a life saver...but it does feel like I am wearing a diaper.  Awkward!  Here's a picture from my first group ride! 2 days ago I went on a ride with the Oklahoma Bicycle Society.  They are a group of amazing people!  These 2 guys (plus one...but he rode his bike home) coached me through 25.1 miles! I went from 8 to 25.1 miles! AWESOME!  There was so much to learn.  Shifting gears is key.  I learned to add resistance when going downhill and lessen the resistance when going uphill or into the strong Oklahoma wind.  They also taught me how to DRAFT. I love drafting.  Basically, it's when you scoot up right next to the back wheel of another cyclist so they block the wind for you.  Too bad I can't do it on race day.  I will definitely be riding with this group again.  Tomorrow is our TNT training day and we will be going on our first TNT group ride.

Thanks for joining me on this journey and please spread the word and stay tuned!