At the behest of my mother, on Sunday afternoon, I decided to stay with her in Tulsa. I was in town celebrating my recent graduation from the University of Oklahoma and had driven up to Tulsa the weekend before. For the past four years I have lived in Norman, which is just south of Oklahoma City. It is a beautiful college town and somewhere I am proud to call home. Last April, I myself had to run to cover as an F-2 tornado tore through parts of Norman. OU is world famous for the atmospheric and meteorological research they conduct, and I was able to take a severe weather class as part of my general education requirements.
Currently I am safe at my mother's house, and we just cleaned out our storm shelter. This is nothing new, as a byproduct of living in Oklahoma, we have been doing these emergency runs for years. All that we need now is the tornado sirens to fire and we are only a moment away from relative safety. In the mean time, I fired up the grill to cook the stakes I bought earlier at the grocery store. My cat, who is usually a spastic most of the time anyway, is running around the house and my parent's dog is pacing nervously.
Our TV is on the breaking weather and we are watching Tulsa's most trusted meteorologist, Travis Meyer. As a result of Oklahoma's constant risk for severe weather, Travis Meyer is almost like family in terms of how much time we've spent with him in our living room. Just as well, his experience and expertise when it comes to Oklahoma weathered is unparalleled, so we know that we are in good hands.
The split screen scene on the television is an interesting and macabre combination. One frame is constantly fixed on the Doppler radar, while scenes of the destruction in Moore play in the other frame. Meyer's voice is strategically narrating the situation and he keeps reiterating that nearly the entire state is under a Tornado watch, with Tulsa county under a multitude of additional severe weather warnings.
The pictures of Moore are heart breaking. I have driven the highway that bisects Moore perhaps a hundred times. I have spent many nights hanging out with friends at the Moore Warren Theater or at Buffalo Wild Wings watching a hockey game. The pictures captured of this super cell and the funnel it produced are mind boggling. Many news casters and meteorologists have already projected that this tornado will be measured as an F-5+ with a few speculating that even this ranking may not fully grasp the whole devastation. As some might remember, Moore was rocked by an F-4 tornado in 1999 to devastating effect.
The two Moore elementary schools that have been struck by the tornadoes appear to have caused major structural damage to the buildings, thus creating a potential for massive loss of life. The tornado caught the schools in mid session, but in miraculous fashion, the students survived with only minor cuts and bruises. In the greater Moore area a few deaths have been reported so far, but nothing yet indicating a much-dreaded massive loss of life. Reports indicate that the tornado was over a mile and a quarter in diameter and entire neighborhoods were wiped out and flattened.
The severe weather in Moore has moved on now and is actually headed directly for me here in Tulsa. The wind has picked up here and the thunder and lighting have just started. The color of the sky is the classical ominous bright gray, indicative of the impending kinetic potential. Travis Meyer is continuing his impeccable coverage and frankly to my disbelief, is talking about massive rotation in Northern Tulsa and golf ball sized hail. The current mix of rain and punishing wind is almost drowning out the TV and the low rumbling of the thunder can be felt advancing forward.
For my fellow Oklahomans reading this article, please stay safe and take cover if the weather demands it. And for those not in the Oklahoma area, here is my Oklahoman's guide to passing time during a Tornado. Follow me on twitter @TheNolanK and I will try to live tweet the tornado outbreak as long as I can - or as long as I have power.