In part one, I described being on the southern edge of the El Reno/Union City tornadic supercell. Now I’ll discuss what we saw at our new position as another circulation developed to the WNW. I’ll also tell you about an exodus out of the Oklahoma metro area!
We could no longer stay with the stronger circulation which was connected to the El Reno/Union City tornado. It was headed for the metro area of Oklahoma City and the interstates, I-44 and I-35, were not doable.
Therefore we set our sights on a new circulation center which was taking shape northwest of us. We drove south a tad and then set up northeast of Minco, OK. It was a relief to find a good vantage point without a crowd of chasers or other traffic nearby!
From here we watched carefully, looking at first to the northwest and then eventually north. Once again, wall clouds and perhaps rain-wrapped tornadoes might have been located right where we were looking but they were not visible. Eventually, a rear flank downdraft swept over our position from the west. It was time to move on.
As we only had about 30 more minutes of usable light and with yet another circulation taking shape to our northwest, we thought maybe one more stand somewhere was possible. But a flow of traffic south out of the Oklahoma metropolitan area had other ideas!
It was incredible. Traffic moving south on highway 4 was just creeping along. It was common for vehicles to turn on their flashers and treat the northbound lane as a southbound lane! Jeff and Bryan fortunately used smartphones and found a series of back roads which got us off the main highways while also staying off of I-44 and I-35.
Along the way, while passing just southwest of Norman, we could see power flashes (power transformers being knocked down) to the northeast. I imagined while in the situation that this was caused by straight line winds. It remains to be determined by survey teams out of Norman whether a small tornado was connected to the flashes.
We had to travel south to Purcell, OK to find the next route east out of the area. While traveling east on highway 39, streams of cars where headed west. Also, for at least 20 miles, every north-south road which stopped at 39 was clogged with headlights coming from the north as far as you could see.
We felt like refugees. It was surreal. People were scared.
It was a combination of being literally ambushed by tornado tracks over the last few weeks along with advice to flee if you could and also just normal rush hour traffic.
I have more to talk about including the overall situation that day in the Oklahoma City area, the tragic deaths of veteran storm chasers, the close call of other chasers, my overall view of storm chasing and a list of links and resources you should check out. I hope to release the third blog on Tuesday. I also have a video review in the works!
In the meantime, please watch this excellent documentary on the chase experience that day as recorded and recollected by tour guest Bryan Snider.