Monday morning’s weather briefing indicated that the best chances of seeing a tornado was in central Oklahoma. Our vans left Sapulpa, Okla., just outside of Tulsa, at 11 a.m.

Monday morning’s weather briefing indicated that the best chances of seeing a tornado was in central Oklahoma. Our vans left Sapulpa, Okla., just outside of Tulsa, at 11 a.m.


Our chase began early as a developing “super cell” appeared on our radar screen. We caught up with the cell in Okeene, Okla., about 5 p.m. The skies darkened and soon a swirl of dust could be seen on the ground -- a tornado had touched down. The tornado did not last long as rain began to wrap around the storm.


We looked for another opportunity to chase a super cell. A developing cell was detected on radar. We followed it and soon stopped near Tulsa. We stopped to take pictures of the storm with its dark clouds.


Our next task was to beat this storm into Tulsa before its 3-inch hail could descend on us. It was now 8 p.m. and our radar indicated we had only five minutes to reach a sheltered location to protect the vans from the rapidly approaching severe hail storm. The only shelter we could find was a truck drive-through wash.


We had three vans to protect. The last of the available shelters had a full-size camper home already parked. Our van was going to be squeezed into the remaining tight space, so we were asked to get out of the van and stay in the overhead shelter during the storm. This was a mistake.


The heavy rains and hail arrived in moments; we were now trapped in the shelter. We thought we had selected a dry area to wait out the storm. Heavy rains and strong winds howled into the open ends of the truck bay and water poured in through open windows in the top of the structure -- we were caught with no rain gear and three of us had expensive cameras to protect from the storm.


The storm lasted for about 30 minutes, and although we managed to save our photo gear we were soaking wet. We all agreed that we had made a “stupid” decision to leave the van -- a lesson learned.


Our vans could now proceed to our motel in Guthrie, Okla., just outside of Tulsa. The first thing I did upon arriving at my room was to turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat to its highest setting. My task was to dry off my soaking-wet clothing and, more importantly, to dry my shoes in hopes they would be dry by morning.