El Reno Monster Tornado

posted in: Storm Chasing | 0
Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: May 31, 2013
Chase Partners:
Lindsey Farias, Stephen Jones, Jari Ylioja

Chasers Encountered:
Adam Lucio, Danny Neal, Alec Scholten

Miles Logged: 144
States Chased: OK
Tornadoes Witnessed: 2
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

A sad day for chasing. What looked like a monster day turned very tragic with the loss of 3 of our own – Tim Samaras, Carl Young and Paul Samaras. They were caught up in the El Reno, OK tornado and were thrown. All 3 perished.

I decided to mostly stay home and decide last minute where to chase on the 31st. We watched all the cumulus clouds go up live on TV from my living room, then eventually jumped into the car and went west on the Norman spur. I wanted to chase further south towards Chickasha and the Lawton storms, but the updrafts on those were obviously struggling visually while the storm near El Reno was looking very healthy. Thus we decided to stay on the spur and head up towards Tuttle.

We went west on 37 in Tuttle to Minco and then north on 81. Stephen Jones was riding shotgun and I asked him to make a determination – Should we go west on 37 more or continue north on 81. We figured the storm would continue moving southeast and wanted to approach from the south. We figured we’d either watch from the south side of the Canadian River or just jump across for a look and jump back.

Storm motion to the southeast and a surging RFD cut us off from the tornado, although in my video you can clearly see the right side of the large and violent deadly tornado as we approached the RFD from the west on Reno Rd.

As we got really close to the RFD, I decided to bail. I was upset at the time, but it was likely a life saving decision. I spent the rest of the day fighting with traffic. We bailed back west and went across the river and headed south towards 37 and then east to 81. By this point the tornado had accelerated way northeast and we were playing catch up.

East on 152 we ran into traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. So we bailed north a mile. More traffic. Traffic everywhere. 152 was a sea of brake lights, so I attempted to start getting south. More cars. We were stuck everywhere we tried to go.

Eventually we knew we had to get south of the river as the storm kept regenerating circulations and was diving south. Our main goal was to get south of the Canadian River on OK-4/Sara Road.

We ended up filming the Tuttle, OK tornado and continued to bail south and returned home to Norman.

As we were getting on I-35 north near Riverwind and heading north across the river, a car came flying down the wrong side of the interstate. Mass panic had taken over. The south bound lanes were jammed full of people. All of the roads off the freeway were full of people. The entire Oklahoma City metro area seemed to be fleeing into Norman and south.

I eventually got back home where power and internet worked just fine. I uploaded some video and then headed to Louie’s for dinner and beverages.

What a frustrating chase day. Never have I felt as unsafe as I did while we were trying to cross the Canadian river to get south. Miles of cars in all directions. Nowhere to go. If the circulation had wrapped up and dropped a mile wide wedge it was game over for 100s of people.