Monday, May 3, 1999
Chase accounts, data, maps, and photographs

Radar and satellite imagery of these storms will be coming within a few days. Bookmark this page and check back occasionally for more photographs, data, and chase accounts!

Quick Jumps

Damage Maps


Newcastle-Moore-Midwest City
Damage Survey
(500K -- be patient)


Chase Accounts

Robert Satkus -- What a devastating day. Normally I enjoy writing and submitting these summaries but this is a tough one.
          Bobby Payne and I went west on I-40 to the Calumet exit to await development, somewhat depressed by the extensive cirrus shield spreading overhead. A few small towers tries to build to our sw, but couldn't quite get their act together.After and hour or so we could see better towers in the same area and dropped south from Hinton as storms rapidly developed near Altus and Lawton. As we neared Chickasha we could see a left moving cell from a storm split that looked spectacular, however we knew the better stuff would be further south, and sure enough within minutes a tornado warning was issued for Grady and Caddo counties. A brief tornado was reported near Fletcher.
          We dropped south of Chickasha then wsw towards Cement. We got 1.00" hail in town and a large wall cloud was visible west. As we cleared a hill we could see a small cone shaped funnel and quickly, a debris cloud. At first the tornado was more of a wispy funnel with a small debris cloud, but it eventually grew into a small cone with a vigorous debris whirl. A new circulation form to the se of the tornado and a funnel came nearly to the ground. We couldn't confirm a touchdown. We pulled north of Cyril as the cone shaped tornado continued to our nw. A large wall cloud passed nearly over us with a possible brief touchdown in the hills to our north.
          A new circulation formed to our ne, and we could see the beginning of a multiple vortex tornado, which I believe was the eventual OKC tornado. As we chase for a local tv station, we were told to head to new storms near Anadarko as there were numerous crews form our station on this storm. Reluctantly, we turned away from the tornado, racing north to get on a storm rapidly approaching Calumet. We watched the coverage of the monster to our south in awe at its size. Our storm was looking good though, with a large wall cloud to our east. We headed east towards Okarche as the wall cloud really wrapped up and a cone shaped funnel lowered to the ground. It was about 200 yards wide and just barely missed Okarche to the west. It moved north to just wsw of Kingfisher. It was one of the more picturesqe tornados I have filmed. It slowly roped out, leaving a detached funnel just below cloud base.
          We thought that was it and turned our attention to a rotating wall cloud over Kingfisher. I glanced back west and was amazed to see the tornado still on the ground, with a white debris plume and a hint of condensation above it, similar to the Union City Ok tornado of 1973 as it crossed the river. As it finally dissipated, the storm weakened rapidly. By now we were hearing of the destruction in the OKC area and weren't sure wether to attempt to intercept that storm, or head back to the storm producing the Minco tornado. We turned towards the Minco storm as it was heading towards Bobbys' house in Yukon. However we could see a new storm exploding to our west near Hinton. It looked great and we felt the minco storm would pass north of Bobbys' house, so we decided to head back west.
          At first the station wanted us south on the Minco storm, because this storm was only level 3 on radar, but with other chasers on it I informed them that this storm was an lp supercell. They switched over to velocity mode and about had a heart attack! Go west now said they! We did and as we neared Geary from the east a tornado formed rapidly, starting out as a rather sinuous, ropy vortex, becoming a larger multiple vortex and quickly evolved into a wedge. It moved rapidly northeast, and even though it was now dark, the lightning illuminated it nicely. It maintained its wedge shape for along time. At one time there was a debris whirl southwest of the tornado and later we saw a second, small cone tornado south of the wedge. This process occured another time soon after. We followed it to west of Kingfisher as it approached Dover, but west of Kingfisher on hwy 33 we were stopped by debris. It was a narrow path, so I am asuming this damage was caused by one of the satellite tornadoes.
          A new storm was rapidly approaching from the SW, moving towards Loyal. We stopped south of Loyal near Omega and through the darkness we saw a small cone tornado, that roped out after about 2 minutes, just east of Omega. We followed this storm, again approaching Dover. It spawned another brief tornado just nw of Dover. Just west of town we saw a new tornado form, ne of Dover, It quickly grew into a large cone, but we were again stopped by damage, this time at Dover. Damage was extensive in town. This effectively ended the chase.
          At least 38 people were killed in Ok, with 5 more in KS. The OKC tornado was rated F5, the Dover tornado F4. Half of the 15,000 homes in Moore were damaged or destroyed. As I write this I am still waiting to hear the fate of friends who live in Moore.

Blair Kooistra -- The Storm Prediction Center's 0830CDT Day One convective outlook pegged north Texas, central Oklahoma, and south Kansas as being at a "moderate" risk of severe weather.
          Instabilities were extremely high, with Lifted Indices at -10 and CAPE edging over 3000 along a projected dryline boundary in western N. TX and west Oklahoma that afternoon. Upper air dynamics were also forecast to be in place late in the afternoon to produce rotating supercell thunderstorms--possibly tornadic.
          I left Fort Worth by 1130, target a Childress-Altus line. I stopped for fuel, new storm data, and lunch at Wichita Falls, and based on information that the dryline was being pushed eastward faster than forecasted, decided to head west to Vernon, near the dryline, and wait for storms to go up. I made it about half-way, to Harrold, stopping to photograph the brilliant bluebonnet display in the 1890-era Harrold Cemetary.
          By 1530, cumulus were beginning to gain height and wider bases. A tower with transient anvil quickly exploded to the west in Foard county and died. Two small cells to my north, however, were gaining strength quickly, and were near a projected moisture convergence bullseye. I headed west to Oklaunion, watched them intensify for about 10 minutes, then struck north into Oklahoma on US183. By this time, the SPC had upped the risk assessment to a "High" level, and spotters in the Lawton area prepared for the arrival of these cells, the northern of which quickly went severe. I played catchup, going east on US70 to Grandfield, then north on OK36 through Chattanooga to Faxon (1633cdt), where I watched the southernmost of the two cells continue to launch updrafts, which the shear quickly toppled over
(Photo 1). I debated playing "tag" withthe first storm, now approaching Lawton, in favor of dropping west toward the anvil developing some 60 miles west in Altus. However,spotters soon reported a wall cloud and developing tornado from the first cell, now located over Lake Ellsworth. I switched on the portable TV to Channel 7, showing a live view from a "towercam" of the wall cloud and lowering funnel. though it was 20miles to my Northeast and a city away, I decided to go for this cell. By 1722 I was just north of Fletcher on a farm road watching this storm wildly rotate and put down a long-lived cone-shaped ("classic") tornado. It was a beaut, but after 15 minutes of watching it, it had gained considerable distance on me. I took off north, zigzagging on a series of dirt and gravel roads, slick with red mud that proved trecherous to at least one chase group (Photo 2). The tornado lifted NW of Cyril; by the time I finally figured out where I was and made it back to Cyril, the storm was again putting down a tornado, this time a large "stovepipe." I was finally able to see the tornado again N. of Rorge, and again as I entered Chickasha from the south on OK 92 (1815cdt), tornado and police sirens adding to the surreality of the scene. I was on a hill on the south side watching the LARGE tornado chew through the northwest outskirts of town and across Hwy 81 (Photo 3).
          The tornado then headed out (1837cdt) into open country between I44 and the village of Amber, gaining intensity and mass. I made the mistake of getting behind a state trooper on I44 and took my place in a moving roadblock about 4-5 miles west of the eastbound wedge. Smallsatellite funnels repeatedly formed on an updraft trailing the main mesocyclone, and were all but ignored by the state trooper and those caught in the traffic jam. One funnel made an attempt earthward, but cut off a little less than halfway down.
          With the congested traffic and urban area ahead, I decided to pull off this storm and head west toward Anadarko, where the earlier Altus storm had become tornadic and was generating a large multi-vortex tornado.
          Back to Chickasha (1915cdt), west to Verden for fuel, then north towards Lake Chickasha on an intercept course, I joined a four vehicle chaser queue, stopping briefly 6 mi. north of Verden to watch the wallcloud generate a short-lived multi-vortex tornado; several miles further north, the tornado returned to view (1950cdt), surprizingly close, as a large, white "cigar," in the process of roping out.
          Pavement was regained (thank god!) at Cogar on OK 37/152; I expected to see new development to my north, but near the Grady county line, yet another multi-vortex tornado churned away, about 1/2 mile south of the highway (Photo 4). It crossed the road in front of us, then set out NE toward the Canadian River and Union City, where Doppler On Wheels and Dr. Howie ("cb") Bluestein were scanning the storm. I made it across the Canadian River ahead of the police roadblock and continued to follow the storm in the deepening dusk as it passed over the little grian elevator town of Banner and finally NW of Piedmont before darkness overtook us entirely. Spotters and TV chasers reported several tornadoes down in series during this period; power flashes on the outskirts of Piedmont lit up one funnel in a spectacular red burst.
          These were by far the most vigorous storms I had chased; they were moderately fast moving, too, about 30-35mph, which made keeping up with them--let alone getting ahead--difficult to someone not familiar with the territory. Most of my guidence once the storms passed Lawton was gathered by amateur radio storm spotters and Oklahoma City TV stations. Wish our coverage in Dallas/Fort Worth was as good during severe outbreaks.
          These were also the first storms I've seen that were killers, and it makes it difficult to reconcile the joy of watching spectacular supercell storms with the sobering reality that on this day, more than 30 lost their lives. The coordinated warning system saved hundreds of lives; even most of the dead were following proper storm safety protocol. But with storms of the intensity of the 1.5 mile wide wedge that moved out of Chickasha, nothing short of an underground shelter would have saved your life. (This doesn't include idiots who venture out without a clue about the day's weather, of who feel that they can seek succor under a highway overpass because they saw it on Real TV once.).

Tim Vasquez -- After a late night I woke up about 11:30 am, and already aware of a possible chase I began looking at weather data. Things looked no easier -- even at this hour the patterns were vague and SPC's outlooks could only narrow the afternoon's action down to north Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Oddly the models had backed the winds behind the dryline, leaving no favored convergent areas. After studying analysis maps and models for about half an hour, I noticed a subtle boundary-layer convergence feature forecast in the 21-00Z RUC panels near Wichita Falls. With 17Z westerlies at Guadalupe Pass TX raging to nearly 50 kts, I suspected that the jet streak and associated dynamics were actually heading for TX/OK rather than KS. With steep lapse rates supporting ducting of momentum towards this region, I suspected we'd see a response in the wind field in line with what the RUC was hinting at. The decision was made. I settled on a target region lying between Wichita Falls TX, Childress TX, and Altus OK. Right around that time my usual chase partner Gene Rhoden called me on his cell phone -- he was in Ardmore OK making his way north from Dallas and would arrive in about an hour and a half. I also talked to Shannon, who was studying for finals and finishing a project at the lab; she needed to stay and take care of those responsibilities.
          I met Gene at his house at 1 pm and we looked at data. Veteran chaser Jim Leonard, who rooms half the year in Gene Rhoden's house, arrived back from lunch about the same time. After about ten minutes of looking at data and discussing the situation, we agreed that southwest Oklahoma was the place to go. We were concerned about a broad chunk of cirrus moving out of west Texas, which threatened to shut down heating and keep storms from developing. However since the mid-level cap was not strong, we had some hope that the cirrus would keep any convective initiation isolated. Gene and I packed up his Ford Explorer chase vehicle and left, while Jim continued to look at data (his regular chase partners are Charles Edwards and R.J. Evans).
          Driving south on I-44 in Gene's Ford Explorer, around 3 pm we could see a thick shroud of cirrus making its way into Oklahoma. We drove into Lawton OK just in time to see towering cumulus already bubbling southwest of town. With the dryline still in Childress, we were not sure whether to abandon this cluster and move west of the moisture axis, but with nothing visible in that direction we decided to stick with what we had and move west if necessary. East of Cache OK at 1545 CDT we pulled into a mobile home sales lot (quite ironic) and watched the towers mature and produce a weak rain shaft (
Photo 1). Nearby towers were leaning over and corkscrewing -- I have not seen shear this evident in towers since the 5/26/97 outbreak in east Oklahoma.
          Our storm moved northeast, producing a weak left-split as well as hail, we followed the right split north and east through the Wichita Mountains (Photo 2). At 1647 CDT the updraft base had grown and became bowl-shaped, and produced a wall cloud with rapid motion. We parked along I-44 near Elgin OK and by 1651 CDT a weak tornado touched down about 2 miles to our west (Photo 3). Debris was on the ground, but the condensation funnel wasn't connected to the cloud, although it showed very tight, spectacular rotation. This dissipated by 1653 CDT. Cumulus to tornado in only 90 minutes!
          This circulation occluded and a new, much larger updraft base began organizing. We got off I-44 at Elgin and moved north along US 277 to Cyril, where we parked and got tripoded video of the circulation. At 1720 CDT a new tornado touched down about 4 miles to our west. This continued until 1731 CDT, widening into a beautiful cone backlit in shades of gray (Photo 4). As this occluded, we noticed that a new meso was developing about 2 miles to our south-southwest, putting us in a dangerous spot. We abandoned our photography of the beautiful Cyril -Apache tornado and scrambled northbound on NS267th Rd, which was NOT paved as was shown in "Roads of Oklahoma" -- the mud became treacherous and at 30 mph we skidded off the road and nearly dropped into a 15-foot ravine -- with the real possibility of a new tornado descending on us in 30 seconds!
          As the vehicle came to rest, in an instant Gene and I mentally picked out spots to take cover and sized up the situation. Another look at the wall cloud (nearly overhead) showed that the strong rotation had subsided and we were no longer at risk. Now our main priority was to get out of the mess and get back on the road. I tripoded my video camera and aimed it east, where an ominous wall cloud was now receding (Photo 5), then I did what I could to help Gene (and got quite muddy). Unfortunately the right-rear wheel had no weight and wanted to spin. Increasing friction with branches and digging out the mud gave us no traction -- an exercise in futility.
          Around this time, we were met by a Dodge van full of local "chaser clowns" (a phenomenon that has grown out of hand in recent years, the result of bored 20-year old locals with no chase experience). The clowns asked about our situation but seemed distracted by the wall cloud and Gene waved them off. Chaser Blair Kooistra also drove by, getting out of his vehicle and braving mud to offer help (a big tip of the hat to you, Blair!), but Gene still wanted to work the truck out. As Blair left, a Cyril resident with his family and a pickup truck drove up, and after assessing the situation he felt he could tow Gene's truck out. Gene's nylon tow rope (from Pep Boys) broke instantly, so the resident got a chain out the back. This proved successful in freeing Gene's truck, and we were back in business. Yet another testament proving the incredible hospitality of folks on the Great Plains, something I've seen and heard of often in my 15 years of chasing!
          The mud had cost us 25 minutes, and with a new tornado nearly 15 miles east and heading for Chickasha, we made a futile attempt to get in position with it, heading north from Verden and east to Amber. The large cone-shaped tornado was clearly visible, but the poor contrast and our being on the move kept us from documenting it. As it was getting into more populated areas, making it increasingly difficult and dangerous to chase, we aborted the chase at 1836 CDT and headed west to another cell which was now moving towards Anadarko and based on 2-meter amateur reports showed promise.
          This cell was much more LP-ish, with very little precipitation, and we had a fascinating view of its structure as we closed in on it. The storm was highly striated with a large, vaulted updraft and colorful backlighting from the sun. Simply beautiful!
          At 1850 CDT, admiring the view, we drove south towards Verden then slightly west on EW130 Rd, dodging two aggressive, positively stupid dogs who ran for our moving truck and nearly got under the wheels. We parked on a ridge north of Verden overlooking Lake Chickasha at 1900 CDT, watching for 15 minutes as the storm rotated and organized to our west (Photo 6). We backtracked past the stupid dogs, who once again charged our truck, then edged several miles north and west on EW 124 Rd, meeting up with chaser Dave Floyd just in time to catch a violently-rotating, wispy tornado cross the road half a mile to our west at 1930 CDT (Photo 7). This moved northeast and grew under a large wall-cloud. Unfortunately with 8 miles of mud northward on Road NS275, we opted to head east on paved EW125 to Pocassett and go north on US81. We were sad to see the growing tornado disappear in our rear view mirror, but 8 miles of mud was not something we were interested.
          Around this time we were hearing of the tremendous damage in Oklahoma City on the 2-meter radios and viewing the coverage on our monitor on KWTV-9. It was sobering, and for awhile we were quiet.
          Finally meeting up with the storm 15 miles further in Minco with tornado sirens wailing, we encountered a large roadblock on the Canadian River, which proved to be a major chokepoint requiring a 30-mile detour. Here, the chase ground to a halt for nearly 30 chasers -- a smorgasboard of Who's Who in Chasing lined up at a roadblock (Photo 8), where only a single TV newsvan (probably KWTV-9) was able to weasel through. Although I considered this to be the luck of the draw, Gene was livid at this ironic end to an otherwise great chase. After 5 minutes of considering road options, we opted west 15 miles then north, hoping the new activity to our northwest would organize.
          Half an hour later at dusk, we got on I-40 eastbound, and in El Reno took the Country Club exit to a Texaco where we fueled up. KWTV anchor Gary England was on the radio in the gas station, and the cashiers were absorbed in what was happening. We then headed north on US81 to intercept the Okarche/Kingfisher storm. Night had fell, and from this point on we relied on lightning flashes and our 15 years of experience with storm structure to guide us.
          Nearing the new storms, Gene asked me how long until we reached Kingfisher. I glanced at the GPS and said "2 miles". I had to do a double-take, as I didn't see anything ahead. A few minutes later, I realized why. We coasted into a dark town was bathed in eerie blackness and lightning flashes -- the power grid had been taken out by a tornado. We quickly worked through the lack of traffic lights and continued 5 miles up the road to Dover.
          Around this time we learned on the TV monitor that a new storm had developed near El Reno and a tornado had touched down near I-40 and Country Club Road -- where we fueled up 45 minutes ago! This tornado went on to destroy parts of the city, including a hospital.
          Dover was a disaster area, having been hit on 10/4/98 and again just an hour earlier. The town was in blackness but busy with police and residents combing through the debris, littered extensively across lawns, sidewalks, and the street, and a new storm was already bearing down to the west. North of town the road was blocked by power lines and a girder blocking the northbound lanes; the police were not around and drivers of several vehicles wandered around, unsure whether to drive over the lines. With wet ground and seeing no steam on the lines, we elected to drive over. There were no problems. We briefly surveyed the situation, seeing a developing wall cloud to our southwest. We scurried back south, by which time a deputy sheriff had arrived. He waved us over the lines, screaming, "Tornado!!! Tornado!!! Go south!!! Fast!!!!!!" After clearing the lines we looked again, and in just 15 seconds a new funnel had widened into a ghostly tornado about a mile to our west (2151 CDT). We moved gradually through town, knowing that the tornado would skirt us and the town to the north, and as the circulation passed north, the tornado widened into a beautiful, ominous stovepipe shape, departing northeast into open fields. The sight of this whitish receding stovepipe shape, illuminated by flickers of lightning, is one of the most haunting, eerie sights I have ever seen.
          Gene and I edged back north through Dover and across the downed lines. The tornado was now many miles away from us, and we decided not to pursue it, instead heading north through Hennessey towards a new wall cloud that had developed to the northwest. We could still see the stovepipe tornado on the eastern horizon, illuminated by lightning like a phantom. We sat near a grain elevator, watching the new wall cloud, however the easterly wind had become quite cold with outflow from the last Dover storm. As expected, the wall cloud soon took on a shelfish appearance and rotation in the storm subsided. We decided to call it quits and head home on US81.
          When we got back to Dover, the deputy sheriff had gotten firm orders that no one was to cross the power lines. So we opted to head north then east on OK51. About 2 miles from OK74 we steered carefully around downed power lines parallelling the road -- and finally came upon a tangle of downed lines with wires crossing 4 feet above the highway; the damage from the stovepipe tornado. We looked at our options and chose to backtrack 5 miles and go south on NS292, however 4 miles down this road we were blocked by downed lines and the fire department which had just converged on a house that was partially destroyed. We backtracked again and chose a 3-mile muddy road to intercept NS283 which would take us (hopefully) southbound west of Dover. These 3 miles took over 10 minutes to navigate, however we were west of the tornado touchdown point and was able to continue south without problems. Kingfisher had gotten its power back by the time we passed through, and we saw a damage track from the Piedmont tornado across OK3. Going south through Oklahoma City at 0100 we crossed the Moore damage path on I-35 at Shields Blvd, where all the highway signs were bent horizontally and debris was everywhere.
          We returned to Norman after 1 am, muddy and exhausted. What a day.

Shane Adams -- This chase started off in the worst possible way. I got hung up at work way late, and was not on the road until around 5:15pm. I was west bound on Hwy 9, when my cell phone rang. It was fellow ROTATE chaser Dwain warner in ohio, calling me with info. Just as i was beginning my conversation with him, I reached for my shifter to gear-down for a stop. It came off in my hand.
          I managed to hang it in third long enough to get pulled over and stop. I ended my call with Dwain, then desperately tried to repair the shifter. It wasn't gonna happen. So, i got out, screamed at my truck, kicked my truck, then called my roomate and occasional chase partner Jeff Johncox to come and pick me up. he had forgone chasing that evening, as he was scheduled for a job interview at six. Upon hearing I was stranded at the hwy 62-9 junction with a tornado bearing down less than a half-hour away, he canceled his appointment and was there in twenty minutes. He's STILL damn happy I called.......
          After Jeff arrived in ROTATE 3, we quickly disassembled all the equipment from ROTATE 1 (my POS Ford Ranger) and got on the road, heading to Chickasha.
          We were getting excellent scanner reports of the Northwest Chickasha tornado, and decided to turn north on Hwy 92 and intercept it from the south. We had a view of the wallcloud as we turned north on 92, then headed rapidly north towards Amber.
          After about a mile or so we heard reports that a new tornado had just formed, straight ahead of us. We looked hard, and after another half mile or so we saw the wedge, moving northeast along I-44. there were several chasers on this tornado, both land AND air, so we just made our way to a good spot on the side of the road, about a mile or two north of 44 and ran video. This was the F5 as it began ripping through Bridge Creek, although at the time we had know idea people were losing their lives.
          We watched the now 1-mile-wide wedge as power flashes from transformers blew in sequence, on the left side of the rotation. After about two minutes, we decided to continue north, still running video. As we drove north towards Amber, we got sensational structure video, a huge white bell updraft, with rotation clearly visible even from as far as ten miles away, with the F5 looming underneath. This was the most Ungodly, most fascinating, and most awe-inspiring moment of my chase career to date. I will never forget that tornado.
          We lost visibility eventually, partly due to rain, partly due to the fact that the storm was moving away, and I decided to call the Weather Channel and see if they knew about the tornado. As I talked to one of their people, i looked over my shoulder to the southwest and saw the day's second wedge, about 15-20 miles away, underneath a beautiful PL cell. I said "Hey man, I gotta go!" hung up the phone, and wheeled the car around to get a better filming position.
          We sat and watched and filmed this tornado for over ten minutes, watching go from Multi-vortex to wedge and then back again. I called the Norman NWS and reported it, and they told me it was west and north of Anadarko. I'm still amazed we had such a view of it from as far away as Hwy 92 north of Amber.
          This LP cell produced what I believe to be two more tornadoes in the next twenty minutes, but our video of these was not very impressive, long-distance and sketchy. We decided to head north to Minco.
          As we arrived in Minco, we saw (but were hit by only one or two) baseball size hail stones littering the road. We stopped for a quick gas and go there, and as I was coming out of the store, the sirens blew. We jumped in the car and went south out of town, then deciuded to go back north through town, then we turned west on Hwy 152. as we headed west, we were hearing a spotter reporting a tornado crossing 152, which would have put it about 5-7 miles west of us, straight ahead. we pulled over and looked for this tornado, and after about two minutes we finally saw it ahead, crossing the road just as the spotter had said. We quickly jumped back on the road and headed towards it, trying to get closer....
          After we had gone about a mile further west, I glanced to the southwest and saw a NEW tornado, which looked like at least an F2 wedge, coming fast. We were in a bad spot. I shouted to Jeff about the new twister, so he could point the camera towards it. So here we were, driving west on 152 with TWO tornadoes right in front of us.
          We drove very slowly about a mile further, during which time the furthest west tornado (number 5) dissappeared beyond the trees to our northwest. Meanwhile, the southwest tornado (number 6) was coming fast. My intention was to get us about 400 yards away from it as it crossed the road, to get my very first-ever up-close tornado video. We lost sight of it as we topped a tree-lined hill, and when we saw it again it had moved to within about a quarter-mile away. Jeff immediatelt screamed for me to turn around, and I slowed, trying to calm him down. I began making my six-point turn (152 has no shoulders there) and as I looke back to the southwest before turning back east, I saw multiple vortices tearing up grass and wheat in the field just outside my window. It was my first up-close encounter with a twister, and it WAS AWESOME!!!
          We drove away from it for about a mile, while we filmed it out the window as it crossed the road (in the very spot where we had turned around.) It crossed less then a mile away from us. Once we were in a safer position, we stopped the car, got out, and rolled film. It was beautiful, going through practicaslly every phase of tornado development possible: Wedge, then multi-vortex, then classic tornado funnel, then stovepipe, then cone, then rope. We filmed this one for over seven minutes before it roped out. Right after it dissapated, about 15-20 chasers came screaming by us from the west. I assumed they had been watching from the other side of the storm, because we were the only ones east of the tornado as it crossed the highway.
          This same wallcloud redeveloped and dropped a quick, brief tornado about 3miles north of Minco, just as we pulled over across from Gene Rhoden and Carson Eads, among others. I don't know if they saw it or not.
          We then got caught in the huge roadblock on 81 by the river, but finally just ran it after waiting a few minutes. Good thing we did, because we might not have seen the Union City tornado that touched down just a mile or so northeast of downtown. I saw Howard Bluestein for the first time in the field just as we were entering Union City. That was cool.
          We finally made it back home around 5:30 the next morning, after a long night of dodging debris, traffic, showing video to news stations, and yelling at CNN over the phone about stealing our video feed and airing it without our permission. Their check is forthcoming...hahahah.
          Fortunately, all my friends in Moore and Oak City are OK....the entire ROTATE Oragnization sends their sympathies to the familes of the victims.

Aaron Blaser --
          Chase Summary-central Oklahoma 5/3
          Chase target area-just west of Chickasha
          Time of departure from okc-230pm
          Target route/I-40 west from okc to El Reno, south on US highway 81 to
          Chickasha, west on US highway 62 to Verden.
          Number of Tornado sightings- 5....only 2 on video or pictures
          Total chase distance-200miles
          As I got out of the station around 2pm..I had been looking at surface data and keeping an eye out on the 700MB temps for at least 2 hours since...also noticed that there was a bullseye of -11 Li's over Lawton and just south....I knew where my target was...only one small concern this day was going to be a significant cirrus shield that was moving east from CO/NM/TX panhandle..that was going to limit the surface heating, but it was already 80-82 in target cutting off the temps would not hurt much with the high temps and high dew points already in place. I left west on I-40 to El Reno to keep an eye on some early turkey towers that were trying to develop near Weatherford, but did not go. I went south for a while on Highway 81 to near Pocasset <10 miles north of Chickasha> and pulled into a field, watching the cap strength, the cirrus shield moving in from the 700mb trough and the interaction with an area of cumulus congestus to the southwest...I saw an area of cirrus to the southwest but though it was part of the shield because I was too far north to see the base of newly developed severe storm in Commanche county, ok. I turned on an AM station on radio and noticed CG static and kinda close..since I was out of range of Lawton weather radio repeater..I could not hear warning earlier of the Commanche county cell...I did get a rare FM station with good weather updates...this from a station in Altus, ok. Hearing the storm and its track which would take it to me...I opted to not risk a dangerous core punch on I-44 to get to the storm, so I decided to get to chickasha and head west about 5 miles to my original target town of Verden. I got there at 330pm...just as the storm went tornadic 20 miles southwest of Verden...the storm projection was NNE at I knew that Verden would see this storm in 30-40 minutes. I also knew that this town would likely see large I scouted out a car wash, told people in 2 convience stores about the upcoming danger and went to a 100 foot cliff/high spot on south side of verden...watching the fast moving cirrus then lowering ceilings/rain shaft get closer...the rain shaft came in and lightning really picked now I am listening to simulcast weather coverage from KWTV stormtrackers on KXY 96.1FM out of okc. I still am north of tornado and cannot see it, so the constant reports from KWTV stormtrackers were a huge the hail began to come in...I decided to get off my perch and head to the car wash to wait out the the tornado got as close as 2 miles south of town, I started to worry about the large hail and when the opening would appear between large hail and bears cage so I can jet west a mile or two...all of a sudden..large hail stops and I bolt out. I get about 2 miles west of my location and there it my southeast, a wedge tornado...HUGE...I turn around on the highway to find a good video stop, but have to re-enter town to get good viewing this time I knew that Verden was I was able to race to my original cliff and shoot some video and still pictures, by this time the wedge was approx. 3 miles to my east...I had a limited time to shoot due to rain beginning to wrap around me on west side of mesocyclone. After shooting the stovepipe tornado...I followed it east on highway 62 to Chickasha, due to heavy traffic ...I did not get any closer to video and it began to speed away from me. I ended the chase for that tornado on north side of chickasha with just a couple of very brief opportunities for photo/video...I did not want to race it up I-44 in case it turned right and messed up the highway. Another factor in this decision was a large wall cloud with inflow tails on a storm that I can see clearly 20 miles west of location..I also knew that this was an LP storm, unlike the HP monster in front of I went for the new storm near Fort Cobb/Anadarko. I went back west on Highway 62 through Verden, about 8 miles later, over some hills, the lowering dropped and a beautiful backlit tornado appeared IN THE FRONT portion of updraft base while a secondary rotating wall cloud was churning in the back of the storm fed by the inflow tails..this tornado was below a corkscrew updraft base and stayed on the ground, moving slowly ENE for about 10 minutes...changing from a trunk, to hose, to rope... and getting great video, closeups and good still pictures . As this tornado dissipated, the wall cloud in back began to increase spin and size..becoming a bowl...I was certain it would produce large tornado, but did not until it moved over rural areas northeast of Gracemont and near Union City, Ok. But by then, it turned HP and the local hills and setting sun made it difficult to see and video, but I saw 2 more seperate tornadoes from this storm during its track from anadarko to north of Union City, ok. Chase ended with catching a glimpse of another large wedge tornado from I-40 through the lightning north of Yukon, ok from a distance of 5-8 miles. Finally getting home around 10pm.

David Wooten-- I have been chasing storms as a volunteer for different Emergency Management Agencies, NWS, and other organizations for over ten years.
          Monday , May 3, 1999: On a business trip in Wichita Falls, Texas my pager alerted me to an extremely rapidly developing super-cell just north of Lawton, Ok. The cell was moving North North/East at only 35mph. With the potential of a rapidly popping cell that close moving that slow I did the math and figured I could easily catch up with the system. I quickly departed Wichita Falls, Texas North bound on I-44 . I did catch up with the storm just south of Chickasha, Ok. The main towering cell was not hard to spot. It's top had grown rapidly and was bellowing upward with each mile marker as I approached the South West band of clouds.
          At the Chickasha ,OK. exit on I-44 I got in front of the system. Within a few minuets a huge wall cloud lowered and the entire system seemed to began to rotate. Listening to the NWS alerts of the location of the cell I quickly found the local Ham repeater . An emergency weather net was up and running. I gave my report and pulled over to find my exact location on the map and observe the cell located atop the next hilltop on I44 just South of Chickasha. The entire base of the wall cloud was rotating and in just a few seconds a large 1/4 mile funnel dropped slowly toward the ground. I was sure it had made contact with the ground as I reported this on the radio was identifying my call-sign. There was a bright blue pop of a transformer then another and debris came up from the ground rotating with the funnel.
          My wind gage went off the scale and the hail started falling along with sheets of red clay mud. This was the muddiest tornado I have ever been in. It was pouring down mud within seconds of the touchdown. The interstate was so covered by red clay and grass it was like trying to drive on top of a wedding cake for several miles. The slick roads slowed my departure allowing the cell to start overtaking me, worst of all cutting off my only escape route as I was unable to get up to full speed. Several smaller funnels lowered and were dancing around the center cell.
          The main cell was on the ground all the way paralleling I44 from just north of Chickasha, Ok. running within as little as ¼ mile from I44. At the center of highway McDonalds it came very close to crossing the highway as it took a hard right turn. The cell stayed to the west of highway I-44. It also came very close to the tool gate booths just a few miles on North of the McDonald's.
          Over 30 minutes after it touched down into the chase I started meeting up with the TV news crews from OKC in the South bound lane. The system seemed to suddenly slow up and build again. It grew to at least 2 miles wide as it stovepiped and did slow up in forward movement 28 mile south west of of OKC, Ok. I noted it was taking another slight right turn (East) toward the interstate. The hail grew to over golf ball sized. It was around 6PM and it was as dark as sunset under the cell. Another 40 minuets of chasing the cell, or more accurately the storm chasing me up I-44 we entered the South edge of Oklahoma County.
          The system finally crossed over I44 right on top of the Canadian River With a State Trooper behind me I made it across the Bridge before he slammed on the breaks and blocked the entrance to the bridge. The troopers were all over the highway on both sides and they shut down both directions of I-44 right in front of the tornado as it crossed over I-44 for the first time in over 2 hours.
          As we all know now…. this is where it jumped across the Canadian River at the bridge and I44 and became a devastating life destructive history making tornado in the South edge of OKC and Moore, Ok. Right over the river I stopped to call NWS Norman one last time with a report of the unbelievable size of the tornado and that it was still on the ground…… now entering a heavily populated housing development…… I was out of the Blazer after talking to a State Trooper just after it went in the housing development and when the baseball size hail hit. It grew to softball size hail and a massive downpour of mud and debris hit. I drove out of it almost completely blind for over 2 miles until I could turn around and return to safer ground.
          My chase ended there at the first group of survivors wandering in the streets where there homes had just been leveled to the ground by the tornado I had been with for over two hours. The thrill of the chase was over. The unforgettable memories of the survivors and the aftermath and rescues had started.
          I chase mainly for the chance to help advise the NWS of what I have been trained to observe. I hope that what I observed that afternoon helped with better locating the cells and helped with decisions on issuing warnings that hopefully saved lives.
          I honestly think that the first reports of the size we reported to the NWS and other stations monitoring was very hard to believe. The size, speed and huge mass rotation that was overtaking each county as it built. As the live TV reports started rolling in it was apparent that this was going to be a killer if anyone in its path was not underground.
          My heart and prayers go out to the families that lost their love-ones and/or their homes. We will pull together and help them like Oklahomans do in times like this. We'll help them rebuild, recover and move forward.

Other accounts


Chronologically ordered. Place names indicate where the video capture was taken, not where the storm was.

CACHE, OK, 3:52 pm CDT, looking S. Towering cumulus -- the infant stage of what went on to produce the devastating tornado in the Oklahoma City area. (Tim Vasquez Photo #1) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

CACHE, OK, 4:23 pm CDT, looking ENE. About half an hour later the towering cumulus had developed into full-fledged cumulonimbus clouds and was beginning to produce large hail. (Tim Vasquez Photo #2) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

FAXON, OK, 4:33 pm CDT, looking NE. The southernmost of the first two cells of the day continue to launch updrafts, which the shear quickly topples over. (Blair Kooistra Photo #1) © 1999 Blair Kooistra

ELGIN, OK, 4:51 pm CDT, looking W. The first tornado from the Chickasha-Moore storm touches down west of Elgin, OK. It was viewed here from alongside I-44. (Tim Vasquez Photo #3) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

CYRIL, OK, 5:28 pm CDT, looking W. A tornado plows through open fields about 4 W of Cyril. (Tim Vasquez Photo #4) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

CYRIL, OK, 5:40 pm CDT, looking NE. A violently rotating wall cloud about 4 miles away heralds the beginnings of the long-tracked Chickasha-Moore multivortex tornado. (Tim Vasquez Photo #5) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

CYRIL, OK, 5:41 pm CDT, looking N. Extremely muddy rural roads finally take their toll on one group of chasers. (Blair Kooistra Photo #2) © 1999 Blair Kooistra

CHICKASHA, OK, ~ 6:20 pm CDT, looking WNW. On a hill on the south side of Chickasha watching the large tornado chew through the northwest outskirts of town and across Hwy 81. (Blair Kooistra Photo #3) © 1999 Blair Kooistra

CHICKASHA, OK, 6:20 pm CDT, looking ???. (David Wooten Photo #1) © 1999 David Wooten

CHICKASHA, OK, 6:20 pm CDT, looking ???. (David Wooten Photo #2) © 1999 David Wooten

?????????, OK, ~ 6:45 pm CDT, looking ???. (James Eschrich Photo #1) © 1999 James Eschrich

?????????, OK, ~ 6:45 pm CDT, looking ???. (James Eschrich Photo #2) © 1999 James Eschrich

?????????, OK, ~ 6:55 pm CDT, looking ???. (James Eschrich Photo #3) © 1999 James Eschrich

VERDEN, OK, 7:04 pm CDT, looking W. With Lake Chickasha in the background, Gene Rhoden gets video of a rapidly rotating wall cloud north of Anadarko. (Tim Vasquez Photo #6) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

?????????, OK, ~ 7:05 pm CDT, looking ???. (James Eschrich Photo #4) © 1999 James Eschrich

GRACEMONT, OK, 7:32 pm CDT, looking N. One of several tornadoes from the "second" (Anadarko) storm touches down about half a mile away in a crop field about 7 miles ENE of Gracemont, north of Anadarko. (Tim Vasquez Photo #7) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

MINCO, OK, ~ 7:55 pm CDT, looking SW. Another multi-vortex tornado churns away, about 1/2 mile south of the main highway. (Blair Kooistra Photo #4) © 1999 Blair Kooistra

?????????, OK, ~ 8:00 pm CDT, looking ???. (James Eschrich Photo #5) © 1999 James Eschrich

MINCO, OK, 8:09 pm CDT, looking N. A roadblock over the Canadian River at Minco ended the pursuit on this storm for nearly 40 chasers. The state trooper, however, was kind enough to let a TV news van through. (Tim Vasquez Photo #8) © 1999 Tim Vasquez

Did you chase on this day? Send in your account and we'll add it! Selected chase accounts will be published in STORM TRACK Magazine (with your permission of course). All photos must have date/place/description information.

Return to 1999 logs

Radar data provided courtesy of Weathertap, Inc.