I had told my friend Gene earlier in the day that today may be a day we would get to chase. I told Regina the same thing. I told Gene I would call him when something started to happen. I became very busy at work until about 4:15 when Regina called and asked if I was going chasing. I said yes and she said there had already been a tornado reported by Lawton. I called Gene, raced home to change clothes, grabbed my gear and headed out the door.
Gene and I headed out towards Union City hoping to get around behind this storm. We went south on US 81 towards Minco. We stopped along Hwy 37 just west of US 81 to wait for the rain to pass. We didn't want to drive thru the rain and possibly golf ball size or bigger hail. We drove back to US 81 and then south after the tornado crossed 81 down by Chickasha about 10 miles to our south. It was still not visible to us. However, the cloud structure was incredible. The clouds were rolling horizontally. I've never seen anything like it.
From this point we could see new storms going up to our southwest. We heard on the scanner that a tornado had been reported in SW Grady county. We debated whether to chase those storms or stick with the one NE of Chickasha. We decided to stick with the OKC storm since it was headed that way and possibly towards my neighborhood. I called Regina and told her she had better be ready to take cover because it looked like this was coming her way.
Gene and I headed north on US 81 to Hwy 37 at Minco. We headed east on 37 with the storm still to our southeast. It was still not visible because of the rain curtain wrapping around it. After we passed Tuttle and about 5 miles from Tri-City, we rain into rain and hail. We stopped at a church to wait out the rain. A hill obscured our view of the tornado, just 3-4 miles away. We continued on towards Tri-City. As we approached Tri-City we could see the tornado to our east. It was big and very dark. Power was out at Tri-City. Many people were watching the storm on the bridge over I-44, some almost blocking traffic. At this point I began to video the tornado as we drove north on I-44, knowing that my house was now in the direct path of the tornado.
We turned onto SW 134th and headed east towards my house. About 1/2 west of May, a highway patrol car blocked our path. The tornado was directly in front of us crossing 134th. It was about 1/2 mile wide. It looked like a giant cloud on the ground. We could see bright power flashes as it crossed the road. The highway patrol car eventully went on and turned south. We headed on east towards my house. As we approached the intersection of SW 134th and Penn, we saw houses in the Country Place addition with severe damage. Trees by the creek had been flattened, power lines were down laying all over the road.
As we headed on east past Penn, we drove across highlines and around poles. We saw the farm house behind ours with some damage, mostly to the barn. As we passed the farm house, we could see my house had been flattened. It was at this point, I became very scared that Regina and Matt were hurt or dead. Gene drove as fast as he could to get us there. We were the first ones into the addition. No one had even come out of their house yet. We drove to the end of our street where the tornado crossed and stopped there because there was another power line and debris covering the street. Houses were flattened and debris was everywhere.
We ran up the street as fast as we could. I was praying they would be alright. Things were unrecognizable. As I neared the house, Gene ran past me as I slowed down. He stopped and said which house is yours, because he couldn't tell. I stopped because I didn't want to see what had happened to Matt and Regina. I turned my head briefly to look at the neighbor's house and then heard Gene call my name. As I looked back, I saw Regina stand up with Matt in the bathtub. A neighbor had come across the street to help them out. It was quite a relief to see them okay.
I went over and hugged them both. We got the dog and headed back to Gene's van. By this time other people had started to come out. As we walked back down to the end of the street, we were in shock at what the homes looked like. Each one was just a pile of rubble. Boards were everywhere. The smell of natural gas was strong from all the broken gas meters. I kept thinking, all these people in their homes must be dead. We put Regina and Matt in the van and Gene and I took our cameras back up to the house to take some pictures.
When we got back to the house we walked up to it and just stood there for a minute in awe at what had just happened. We looked at the car that had been in the garage but was now spun around and sitting where the kitchen used to be. We looked over at the smashed washer and dryer that we had just purchased six days ago. (They don't make them like they used to.) Gene asked me where the my computer was. We looked around for a minute trying to figure out where we were in the house. It was hard to tell because in the front part of the house the walls were gone and even the carpet was stripped off the slab. We then realized that we were standing where the office used to be. No computer anywhere, no desk no anything. (We later found the computer under the carpet at the back of the house. It was beat up, but still good.)
We decided to leave and as we walked back down the street, we tried to see if anyone were home at any of the flattened houses, but found no one. A family with a golden retriever dog at the end of the street were briefly trapped before an army of neighbors came over, lifted the rubble off, and pulled them out. By this time, the fire department had arrived and we decided to get out of there. As we drove down one street next to the tornado's path, the houses had quite a bit of damage. Some had windows blown out, parts of roofs gone, and holes from wooden missiles.
Our next mission was to get back to my Mom's house. They wouldn't let us go west on 134th or 149th. So we decided to go east and go around it. What a mistake! We didn't know the path of the tornado had reached to Midwest City. We ended up driving all the way to Harrah-Newalla road and then north to NE 10th before we could go back west. Gene took us by his house to get some clothes for Matt. It was about midnight by the time we got back to my mother's house.
Did this discourage me from chasing? No. Will Regina let me go again? Not until we get our cellar put in. I believe God had his hand over our family that night and for that I am very thankful. We were very fortunate.