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!



  1. Wow! Just such interesting work you do! I have always wanted to learn about storm chasing and tornadoes. Gutsy stuff!
    Also, good job on the blog. I too have started a blog several times and just didn't keep up with it. I'd say you're doing awesome here!
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Thank you, RemyLee! I am trying. It's hard to keep up with blogs!