May 24, 2008 Tornadoes

North-central Oklahoma


I left Oklahoma City in the morning fully intending to make it to either northern Kansas or southern Nebraska by late afternoon initiation. As I passed Blackwell, OK, a storm had begun to intensify on an outflow boundary to my southwest. It wasn’t until I reached the Kansas Turnpike that I decided the Oklahoma storm was becoming surface based, and had potential to become tornadic. I turned around and plotted an intercept course. It was frustrating to hear spotters on the radio reporting the first tornado, I was still 20 miles east of the storm and could not see any of it. Fortunately the storm cycled, and I was able to observe the storms second tornado as it formed to the northwest of Hennessy, OK. I continued toward the storm which cycled again, producing a fairly long lasting tornado a mile or so to my west, near Bison, OK. I paralleled the storm to the east, it had taken a pretty decent right turn and was moving nearly due east at this time. I was off the highway and driving down a rain slicked, muddy road when I hit a pool of water causing me to slide sideways and into the ditch. A KFOR chaser behind me did the same thing and luckily went into the opposite ditch. Four-wheel drive was no help for either of us in the wet clay. As I got out to investigate another tornado formed to the northeast. I abandoned the efforts to get unstuck for a bit in order to photograph this new tornado. After what seemed like forever some locals happened to by and they promised to come back with a truck to help us out. Once again I hear more tornado reports, but was helpless to get myself out to continue chasing. Some time later somebody with a truck and a rope showed up, and I was able to get out of the ditch and back on pavement. The storm was moving at 7-10 mile per hour, so it didn’t take long to reengage with it. I got back in front of it as it approached Orlando, and then dropped southeast to a cemetery on SH 51 where I ran into Rocky Rascovich and Vince Miller. We had a great view as we watched two simultaneous tornadoes form northwest of us. After that I followed the storm east, ending up east of Perry, OK. Although there were still reports of tornadoes south and west of Perry, the storm had become HP and I was unable to confirm anything but RFD winds and an intense rain curtain obscuring my view. I abandoned the storm east of Perry and observed a couple of areas of flash flooding as I returned west to I-35.

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Questions or comments? Please contact  J.R. Hehnly