After several hours of watching development through the day, I finally hit the road about 1:30 pm. The target area I’d chosen at 2:20 am was still my preferred target for the chase. That meant that I was 3 1/2 hours away from where I needed to be.
I’d hoped the a potential target area would have moved closer to Tulsa. I was wrong.
I jumped on I-44 and headed towards OKC. My plan was to dip south before I hit the OKC area. Ooops. That was a mistake I won’t make again. It took me an hour to get south of the city.
The storms were developing west of Lawton, moving to the NE. Fortunately for me they were only moving about 25 mph. I still had time.
I turned to the west on highway 9, south of Norman and then south on I-44.
I stopped at a truck stop to use the facilities and refresh the liquids. I also took some time to review the radar again. A man came up to my window and asked me how it looked. He was heading to Lawton. I shared the radar with him and we both agreed we’d try to make it to Chickasha.
The target was now Chickasha, northeast of Lawton. I thought I’d be in perfect position if the storms drifted to the north a little. Again, I missed the mark.
The storms were traveling NE, right up I-44, and right for Chickasha. They were intensifying and quickly became tornado warned. I realized I was in the direct path and needed to get south. Quickly.
South towards Duncan was my only escape.
A few miles north of Duncan, I turned around and pulled over. The view to the west didn’t look all that bad.
The radar told me something different. The storms were powerful and still building.
In this enlarged image, you can see my location (green triangle).
I sat in the drive of a communications tower. Another smart move. I kept studying the radar and the sky. The conditions were worsening.
Some lowering was occurring, but I wasn’t concerned. Yet.
Something nagged at me. Sitting next to a tower with this storm moving in might not be the best plan. I needed to move.
As the storm moved to the east, I inched my way back north. Viewing the storm from the proper position. Reports were coming out that a tornado had touched down near Lawton and Chickasha was in the path.
I stopped again to review the radar. It was 6:35 pm. The storms were moving in. The sky was darkening, the tornado warning had moved to the east and I was in perfect position.
To give you an idea how stupid some drivers can be, a man stopped next to me and rolled down the passenger side window. He said, “What’s going on?” I guess he noticed all of the cars pulled over to the side of the road. ”That.”, pointing to the storm ahead of us.
“Oh. Cool.” was his response and he sat there looking at the sky.
I looked in my rear-view and saw traffic heading towards the north at highway speed. Mr. Brilliant was still sitting in the right-hand lane.
Gesturing for him to look behind him, “You might want to get off the highway.”
“Get off the highway, NOW!”
I guess he got my subtle hint and pulled off to the side of the road in front of me.
I stepped out of the truck and got blasted with the downdraft. That was pretty awesome.
The storm was now moving across the highway. Still heading for Chickasha.
There was still some rotation, but the storm had been downgraded from a tornado warning to a severe thunderstorm warning. It was dumping hail and a large amount of rain. Flood warnings were being issued.
Not wanting to get into hail, I stayed south of the storm and studied the structure some more.
Once I was sure I would miss the worse of it, I drove back towards Chickasha. I didn’t hit any hail, but heavy rain was falling.
I stopped in Chickasha for a little bit and grabbed a snack. I should have gotten gas too! I will come to regret this decision.
At 8:00 I left Chickasha for Tulsa. So much rain had fallen, the main roads were flooded. I was on 4th street and slowed down to a crawl to get around stalled vehicles. Flood water was up to the bottom on the doors.
Eventually I was able to get back onto I-44. I was out of the high water, but a few drivers weren’t so lucky. Some of them were in the ditches. Driving rain and hydroplaning don’t mix well.
I still need gas.
North and WEST of OKC, I found a place to gas up. I now wished I’d done that earlier. I was getting tired and still had a two hour drive ahead of me. Heavy rain would accompany me most of the way.
About 30 minutes outside of Tulsa, a new tornado warning was issued. That storm was right behind me. I stepped on the gas.
I pulled into the driveway at 11:30. After a 10 hour, 410 mile run, I was finally home.
Fortunately the rain was light. I began unloading the gear into the garage. I had about half of the gear disconnected and unloaded when the tornado sirens in my neighborhood sounded. The storm that had been chasing me, had made it to Tulsa.
Yes, I quickly finished unloading the truck. Heavy rains fell, thunder roared and the wind blew HARD. It was a major storm. The scanner chatter indicated that we had rotation just a few blocks form my house!
This is what I was looking at on radar.
The storm had already done damage and would go on to do more damage in Bixby, Broken Arrow and Inola.
I quit watching the radar shortly after 1 am. This day was not going to end. Finally, just before 2 am, it was safe enough to go to bed.
My chase day was finally over.
Damage reports on Thursday would reveal that what had come through the Tulsa area was an EF1 tornado.