1990 was an important year for me in that I was able to go out safely, identify what I was seeing, and accomplish observing several severe events – on my own. 1991 would be another step in the process by getting to deal with a couple of significant severe weather outbreaks in April.
Overall, the season for me started early and ended early with no chases past May 30th. I continued to stay fairly close to home with only one brief trip into Texas (Memphis), and one brief trip into Kansas (Wichita). It still felt I was leaving my comfort zone when I got out of the state.
I threw money out for a video camera, one of the original ones, big, heavy, and had to rest on your shoulder. It’s still hard to believe that I spent over a thousand dollars on that in 1991.
The first of two big days in the plains was April 12th. I probably picked the least interesting of the storms, but followed a supercell from near Binger northeastward into the northeast corner of Kingfisher County where it produced a tornado that lasted between five and 10 minutes. Even though the tornado was one of the weaker ones of the day, I was happy with how I played the storm and had a decent viewing area to its east southeast. The biggest problem occurred when the battery of the video camera ran out just before the tornado ended. I spent a little too much time shooting the early stages of the storm.
The biggest day of the year for me was April 26th. A significant outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes was advertised for several days in advance, and 58 tornado events ended up occurring in the plains.
A friend who worked at the National Weather Service in Norman was along with me, and I was glad to have the help. We drifted into northwest Oklahoma during the early afternoon and initially tried to catch up with a severe storm that formed early and raced toward southern Kansas. Recognizing that this was elevated convection which formed earlier than what the main show was going to be, we started back to the southwest toward Blaine County.
Things were already rolling along in the central plains when our storm of the day formed to our southwest. The convection was explosive and some of the most dramatic I had ever seen.
Early stages of our "storm of the day".
We fell a little behind the storm because of its fast northeast motion and were driving through Enid when a tornado formed just east of the city. This first tornado of the day was fairly impressive and presented us with a nice rope-out near Breckenridge.
Rope stage of the Enid tornado.
We drove into Garber as the storm was reorganizing. My early gray hairs were added to – along with adding gray to my chase partner – as we were nearly caught up in a developing tornado while driving through town. He was the first to spot debris flying up next to the truck which caused us to expedite our departure from the town. East of Garber, we were able to stop and gather our composure. Soon after, the main event started. A tornado formed just east of Garber and quickly became intense. We would follow this tornado for about 30 miles over 40 minutes as it became large and in-charge. The storm was moving so fast that the tornado put distance between it and us every step of the way, but we were always close enough to see just how big and intense this tornado was. It eventually became about ¾ of a mile wide and portable doppler radar would measure winds near 290 M.P.H. Luckily, this tornado stayed away from towns. On our way home, we passed a lot of mangled trees, poles and cattle. There was also one home near I-35 which was totally swept away.
Despite it being a short season for me, I learned a lot and saw some incredible things. Afterward, I eagerly awaited the 1992 season.
Large tornado approaching I-35.