Weather: Storm Front Freaks Network

#4 El Niños - El Reno Commentary

May 9, 2021

In This Episode

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  • Guest: Peter Slack

On May 31 2013 a very well forecast tornado event happened outside Oklahoma City near the community of El Reno. This day was special and tragic at the same time. Not only was this the largest tornado ever recorded, but due to its forecastability and proximity to Norman Oklahoma, it was also the most researched and documented tornado in history.

Sadly, the day took a tragic turn when 9 people were killed, including 4 storm chasers. Three of these chasers were Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young who made up the highly respected TWISTEX team. By anyones standards Tim Samaras would have been considered as a safe and experienced chaser. NOBODY expected Tim to be among the first storm chasers killed while chasing. It was unfathomable.

As mentioned, the forecast was consistent and quite scary. In fact, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma did such an amazing job of forecasting that when we looked at the models the day before and looked at the SPC’s forecast, we put a pin in the map at El Reno and actually spent the night prior to the tornado in a motel in the town.

The tornado ended up being 2.6 miles wide at its peak and there were radar indicated winds which peaked at almost 300 MILES PER Hour. Crazy. Officially the tornado was given a hotly debated rating of EF3 since after all, the EF scale is a measure of damage and not wind speed. Either way it was intense, dangerous and a day that none of us will ever forget.

For this episode, we have brought together everyone who was in our truck that day including the director of photography Peter Slack who was shooting the entire time and documenting our experience with El Reno and what could easily have been the end of our lives.

Here is how this commentary is going to work. We are going to play the video that Peter shot that day from the back seat of Flash, the Tornado Truck. I will stop the video at key decision making points and we will discuss our thoughts, and share some insight as to how and why we made the decisions we did. Facilitating the process will be our good friend Nick Schenher (NicktheBody) who was watching all of this unfold on our live stream. So if you would like to watch the video and see what we are seeing during this commentary, head on over to YouTube and visit my YouTube page by searching for Greg Johnson Tornado Hunter. You will find the El Reno video and you can watch and pause when needed.

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