Category Archives: 1999

Tri-State Tornado Day – June 29, 1999

Odd day.  I started in Dodge City and worked my way southwestward as convection started to bubble across far Southeast Colorado.  I was near Rolla, Kansas when a tornado became visible to the distant west.  My first guess was about 15 miles away.  I called the National Weather Service in Dodge City and was surprised to hear that the tornado was actually in Colorado over 30 miles away from me!  They had been receiving calls from all over far Southwest Kansas.

The storm that produced the tornado near Walsh, Colorado moved southeast and produced another weak tornado near Eva, Oklahoma.

The next stop was the Texas Panhandle where the storm produced numerous brief and weak tornadoes.  These were almost too numerous to count near the towns of Gruver and Morse, Texas.  In general, the tornadoes were not impressive, but the longevity of the storm was.

In addition to the fun of chasing a storm and seeing a lot of small tornadoes, this day was the closest I’ve come to being struck by lightning.  I was standing near the open door of my truck when lightning struck somewhere close behind me.  My lunge into the truck was probably more of a reaction than a physical force of the lightning, but it was close enough to make the video camera unusable after that point.  The scary thing was I had no signs that it was coming.  I didn’t get the hair standing, skin tingling experience that I’ve always heard about.  That lets me know that you might not get even the smallest of warning time with an oncoming strike.

May 3, 1999

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnNoYgeV3B4

We have finally had enough big events across Central Oklahoma that I don’t get asked much about May 3, 1999.  For years, that was usually the first question that came from someone that found out I chased storms.  “Did you see the tornado that went through Moore in 1999?”  And I always had to lower my head a bit and stretch out a long, “Nooooo.”  As it was, this record breaking day allowed us to screw up in a number of ways and still see tornadoes.

We had little doubt that it would be a tornado day.  At its basic level, sufficient moisture, lift, instability and shear were all in place.

We started northbound out of Okarche with the idea of staying closer to the Kansas border, or a little closer to the surface low.  Storms started forming around us when we were in Enid and it looked like the chase was on.  A flat tire sidelined us, and a non-working jack extended our period out of service.  While we watched storms race away from us that went on to produce tornadoes, we listened as storms were producing tornadoes near Chickasha.  Then the big dagger, TORNADO AT OKARCHE!  That came across the radio just as we were starting back south, but we were still 45 miles from Okarche.  Yes, a strong looking tornado passed a little more than a mile from the house.  If we hadn’t done anything more than sit in the driveway, we would have been ahead of where we were at this point.  This storm was completely dead when we caught up with it near Kingfisher.

We popped back in the house to look at data and while we had blown everything up until then, there was hope with another storm tracking toward Union City.  This was a short drive down Highway 81 and by 8 pm we were finally on a storm chase.

The storm produced three weak tornadoes between Union City and El Reno before putting down a more significant tornado near Richland.  An even stronger tornado was then produced which tracked across the northwest side of Piedmont.  Being about 15 miles from home, and wanting to get there to start finding out information on friends and relatives, we went ahead and returned to Okarche.  We just barely made it through the door when another tornado producing supercell started passing across the west side of El Reno.  This would be an easy intercept by just driving a few miles east of town.  We sat eight miles east of Okarche and watched a violent looking tornado pass to our east and northeast.

Now the day was complete.  Six tornadoes from two different storms and never more than 45 miles from the house.  It’s not exactly how I envisioned it unfolding, but it seldom is.