Saturday, February 14, 2009

Report From Mars - Storm

Thanks to Paul(AE5PB) for this look at storm tracking - from inside the storm...isn't that not one of our goals. Never mind that. The inside guy was Brad(KE5EMF).

Wade Norris
Okla Army Mars
Voice of the Army
Grid Bandit #82

I managed to avoid any hail damage (that I can tell at this writing). But the pea size quickly graduated to near quarter size hail just this side of the Wilson turn off. I hit the middle and made a quick u-turn and raced out of the cell. I stopped just inside the Lone Grove city limits and told two officers there that a severe hail cell was not far behind me. They advised they knew, because they were listening. I decided to make it back to Ardmore. As I was enroute, further traffic indicated the tornado to cross Hwy 70 between Lone Grove and Ardmore. I decided to stand-by at the intersection of Hwy 70 and Brock Road at the Talliferros. Reception was terrible under their awning, but the rain mixed with hail became severe (0 visibility). AND, some other officer or fireman became hysterical on the Lone Grove frequency regarding the position of the tornado. Dispatchers tried to calm the fellow to get an accurate report, when I heard him quite clearly say "It's crossing Hwy 70!"

I pulled back into the blinding rain with the intention to block any further vehicular traffic west bound into the Lone Grove area. As I stopped traffic, the rain began to cease and a stormtracker pulled up window to window with me, trying to ascertain the tornados position. I advised I wasn't sure but we sure should find out. It was at this point that he pulled into the lot at Taliferros. I observed a very brilliant lightning flash. I noticed that it strangely lit up the southern sky, and the northern sky...but the western sky which I was facing at the moment, remained unchanged. I leaned in and took a closer evaluation when I realised the unchanged black mass was actually moving across the highway not more than 500 feet to my west. At this very moment, a tranformer exploded very near to me, and the sparks looked close enough to reach out and grab with your fingers...and they went straight up instead of falling to the ground. The sparks were sucked into the votex many feet above me. I dove back into my vehicle just before the tornado completely crossed, and the rear flank slammed into my truck and spun me in a 360 degree spin in the middle of Highway 70. Now granted, the pavement was extremely water logged. But this did not lessen the sensationalism for me. This is the point I was advising "I'm in it! I'm in it!" Now I pride myself on my calm in an emergency situation. And for the life of me, I can not recall if I was managing to pull it off, or not. But I can tell you this, I was freaking out completely on the inside. I watched the black monster move off towards the northeast down Brock Road and I gathered my wits, turned my vehicle about ( it took me a 3 point turn) , and hit the Highway eastbound and followed the tornado as I turned north up Plainview Rd. Reaching Prairie valley, I again turned eastbound and I could see the tornado moving across I-35 heading towards Springer. I attempted to follow up I-35, but I ran into a vehicle debaucle (I found out later there was a deceased motorist in the ditch) and blinding rain once again. I aborted the attempt and tried catching it by heading north on Hwy 77. With the wall of blinding rain (0 visibility) again slowing my progress, and the bridge that I knew was nolonger there, I decided it was best to abort the northbound pursuit, and I returned to Lone Grove to assist anyway I could. I worked traffic, (blocking and redirecting) at Brock and Hwy 70 for a couple of hours. Then I was sent to Brock Road and Prairie Valley Rd by the IC, right through the disaster scene. The landscape was all to familiar, and I knew tomorrow would bring some grave news for many friends and loved ones in the area. I worked this intersection until I was advised I could stand down once the blockades were in place. They arrived shortly, and I returned to Ardmore.

Now, I have been intercepting severe cells since the 70's. And I have engaged a few tornados after dark as well. But I have NEVER turned around and been close enough to kiss the ass of an obvious EF-2 or 3. So if I sounded a bit excited and keyed up, it's because...I was.

I thought everyone did a great job. I was sad to hear the 97 had crashed, as I thought its far reaching capabilities would have lended an entirely new scope of potentiality to our efforts. But I thought the entire interception was a success, as we all went home safe, and the community was well informed. I was relaying traffic to Lone Grove Fire, Ardmore PD, the 150, EOC, the 580, and a battery of phone messages. I was impressed how our guys pursued the tornado into the hands of more trackers to pursuit it farther. Then we donned another hat and accepted first responder and aid responsibilities. A shelter was set up. And we freed up emergency personnel trapped in routine duties to manage more important issues. So, it is merely my humble opinion, but I was impressed with everyones efforts, and proud to be associated with the HAMs on the ground, and behind the base radios. It was a difficult and extremely intense emergency deployment, and it was handled as well as any expert response could be.
Brad Patrick
Ardmore Emergency
Operations Center~
Southern Oklahoma

1 comment:

KD5NJR said...

That is a good post. I'm not familiar with those place names, but obviously, he saw something special. Sparks going UP ! WOW !!.