I’ve wanted to write this for months now. This is a sort of announcement of other things I like aside from writing fantasy. And here we are. I wrote this. So, we are going to talk about it.
Here is my great admission. I like tornadoes. In by that, I enjoy learning about them from the safety of a book or through my computer screen via the method of Youtube videos. In fact, videos have made this fascination of mine even worse. Long ago, I wanted to be a meteorologist, among many other things. However, it was the math that scared me away from attempting it.
So, I filled my brain with knowledge from public television programs and specials about storms. Whether they were tornadoes or hurricanes instead. Now that we live in the age of Youtube, it had made it capable for me to watch 1hr and 26 min long storm coverage of the Bridge Creek tornado as it happened. And I found it fascinating.
So, when did this fascination start?
The truth is, I’m terrified of thunderstorms and tornadoes are a horror I never want to see. Yet that tornado created by a muslin and steel burned into my mind from The Wizard of Oz. Then Twister came out and loved it, at the time. I don’t care for the movie now. I’ve watched way too many documentaries to know that actual tornadoes are far more terrifying than the monster they created for that movie. From the “dead man walking” tornadoes to an EF5 creating 1-foot trenches of land scaring in the ground. That is all more terrifying than tornadoes splitting like a cell going through a quick mitosis.
However, there is a single tornado that I want to write about. Something that happen 10 years ago today on May 31, 2013. At 5:33pm CDT, the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, issued a tornado warning for Canadian County. A rotating supercell had formed and then around 6:03pm, it spawned a tornado. A tornado that would go down in history as the widest tornado ever recorded at 2.6 mile making it a 3-mile wide tornado.
The El Reno tornado was a mass of unpredictable giant mass fury, and it tracked through the rural areas of El Reno Oklahoma. If you’ve never heard of this place, it is a town in central Oklahoma and situated outside of Oklahoma City. This area seems to be a significant tornado magnet in my opinion, as there have been a number of tornadoes in and near El Reno and Oklahoma City and its surrounding suburb’s. In fact, 11 days earlier, Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, was impacted by the last recorded Ef5 tornado as of writing this. It scraped a 17 mile long path through populated areas of Moore. And this isn’t the first EF5 Tornado to hit Moore Oklahoma. In 1999, the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado tore through parts of Moore. And if you aren’t familiar with this EF5. It is, as of writing this, it holds the record of the strongest tornado ever recorded with wind speeds recorded on ground radar at 305mph(484km/h for my metric friends). The damage from this tornado was extraordinary. And a topic all of it’s own.
Needless to say, this area is familiar with tornadoes.
However, El Reno wouldn’t see the devastation of these two weather events, but something impactful in terms of a learning experience for storm chaser. It was the first-time storm chasers died from this tornado.
One of the reasons this tornado turned deadly was the fact it grew quickly in size, speed, and strength. It became rain wrapped very early, making it and its multiple vortices hard to see.
And you might ask what are multiple vortices? Well, tornadoes don’t always comprise of a single condensation funnel. You know, the visible portion you always see in pictures. Whether it is shaped like a pizza slice or a twisted shoelace, that is a condensation funnel. And it might seem like a singular violent column of air, however if you watch storm footage and examine close shots either at the base or around it, you can sometimes see vorticies. They aren’t always visible. And the El Reno tornado consists of the many raging small carousels of deaths.
Meteorologist Mike Bettas of The Weather Channel and his crew, was struck by this tornado. About 13 seconds in, you can see suction vortices. Their vehicle was struck and plucked from the highway going air borne, and sent them tumbling several yards away. All him and his crew did survive, with injuries. However, some storm chasers weren’t so lucky. They didn’t realize in the attempt to flee. They drove into the heart of a rain-wrapped horror.
Now what is a rain-wrapped tornado?
It means that a tornado becomes surrounded by a swirling wall of heavy rain. Not all tornadoes have high cloud bases and are easily seen. Most of them are a swirling mass of wind and rain or will become one. As they move, they just pull the rain around it coming from the supercells that spawned it. When this happens, it’s impossible to see anything aside from motion.
Storm Chaser Skip Talbot has good footage demonstrating how hard this tornado was to see. In the video, he states this it was EF5 tornado. It was not, it was rated as an EF3 after assessment, and I will get to that in a moment.
Also, this report, by the National Weather Service, covers several days. However, May 31, 2013 is included.
Page 29 has an interesting illustration of how wide this tornado was.
Now, as mentioned, it was initially given an EF5 rating. It was a preliminary rating due to wind speed. However, tornado ratings, unlike hurricanes, aren’t given ratings on just wind speed. It’s based on damage.
Above is a better explanation than I can do. Plus, I love Pecos Hank.
This tornado tracked through a rural and unpopulated area. All the deaths in this tornado, 8 in all, were road deaths. Which brings us to notable deaths.
Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras, and a fellow storm chaser Carl Young, were part of the TWISTEX research team. They were hit by a suction vortex. None survived. And if you don’t know who Tim Samaras was, he was storm chaser known from the reality show Storm Chasers, National Geographic, and gathered data for tornado research. If you want to read about him and the research, he was doing. I recommend reading, The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Storm Chaser Tim Samaras by Brantely Hargrove.
And that’s it. Thank you for humoring me. I know it is the end of May. We have June to get through. I spent most of May dedicated to the new novel I’m writing. Part of me wants to continue through June and hold off on Changes edited to get the story done. I can say, I am at least at the halfway point now. Maybe even over it. The story needs a serious revision as I discovered a big plot hole that I have to fix. I may pop back up with some other writing. I promise you I’m not continue doing this…
But is it okay if I write about the Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado? I’ve storms on my brain, and I need an outlet to remove them?