We started the day in Norman OK, and were targeting the area
just west of the OKC metro for supercell initiation in the
late afternoon. After a leisurely breakfast at Jimmy's Egg
next to our hotel, we headed out towards El Reno, where we
stopped at a gas station and hung around for 2-3 hours
looking at data and watching the cumulus field becoming more
clumpy and agitated as the heating destabilized the
While waiting, our gas station attracted at least a dozen
other chasers, and we got a chance to hang out with
Anemometer Steve, Melanie Metz, Dan Robinson, Dan Shaw and
many others, including Reed Timmer's Dominators I & II.
Around 4:30pm, the first real storm towers went up in the
extremely unstable air, and quickly became supercells.
Initially, there were 3 cells...one south of I-40, one
north, and one right on it. We went west and then north at
Calumet, targeting the northern storm since it was the first
to go up. We quickly realized that storm was getting
interfered with by the other cells, so we abandoned it and
cut east on a dirt road and then back south on Hwy 81 into
El Reno again. From there, we went a few miles south of town
and waited at the side of the road as the southern cell
became dominant and started coming towards us.
This map is an overview showing our route during the time of
the El Reno tornado.
5:45 - 6:05pm - We had come through El Reno and set up at
the side of Hwy 81 looking west. We watched as the base took
on a classic supercell appearance, although visibility was
limited by heavy rain. By around 6pm, the tornado was taking
shape west of the El Reno Airport, about 7 miles to our
west. We waited and watched as the inflow really began picking up.
My location is the green dot. Other friends,
Chris Kridler & Bill
Hark are indicated.
6:10pm - Our view to the west as the tornado planted itself
on the ground and began taking a more southeast course.
Visibility to the west was still poor due to heavy rain. But
the tornado was clearly visible in lightning flashes, (it's
a low contrast cone in the center of this image).
- Anticipating that the tornado's southeasterly course would
cut off our south escape road quickly, we bailed from our
location, so that we could beat it before it crossed Hwy 81.
This is our view to the west as the tornado was about 2
miles away. It crossed Hwy 81 just behind us.
6:19pm - Traffic on Hwy 81 was very
slow, despite it being a 4-lane highway. There were many
panicky locals, as well as a few chasers, clogging the
road. We paused about 2 miles north of Union City, OK to
have a look behind us. The view back to the north was a big
dark wall of precip that was barely recognizable as being
anything. But this radar image shows that a violent and very
large tornado was buried deep in the rain.
6:23pm - As we proceeded SLOWLY south
due to the traffic, a large & violent tornado, now
completely obscured by rain, hooked back to the northeast
and headed towards I-40. This is approximately the time when
it struck the car that well-known storm chasers Tim & Paul
Samaras and Carl Young were in, killing them.
We kept following south along Hwy 81, keeping a close eye on
the new cells going up on the western edge of the complex.
But by then, there was a large amount of outflow air that
destroyed any chances of further supercell/tornado
Increasing density of traffic also made travel very
frustrating, as more people fled south, despite the danger
weakening. This was the scene in Chickasha as what was left
of the storm complex approached.
This traffic lasted well into the night as those who fled
south tried to make their way back home to the OKC metro.