June 13, 1998

Today is the 10 year anniversary of what was a pretty wild evening here in Oklahoma City.  One supercell produced 7 tornadoes in the metro area, from El Reno to northeast Oklahoma City. 

I remember chasing that storm.  We went to Hobart first, where the air temperature was well over 100 degrees!  The storm started really taking off in Washita county, so we went north on US-183, and eventually got on I-40. 

The first couple of tornado touchdowns were in Canadian county, in a field along I-40 near El Reno.  We were in the eastbound lane, the tornado was in a field in the westbound lane.  At that point, the storm was only producing small, short-lived tornadoes. 

Chasing along I-40, or chasing in open country is one thing.  Chasing in a city brings a whole other set of problems.  Roads end, lakes cause detours, speed limits are lower, and stoplights/stop signs are there to prevent traffic accidents.  That can make keeping up with a storm quite difficult.  I remember how fast we had to think on our feet to manuver our way around to keep on the storm.

The parent storm plowed right through the north metro, going over Lake Hefner, The Village, Nichols Hills, north Oklahoma City, eventually moving toward the Turner Turnpike.  It didn’t produce one long tracked tornado, but instead a series of smaller tornadoes.  This was 1998, so we were still using the F-scale, not the EF-scale that we use now.   The total would end up being 3-F0 tornadoes, 2-F1’s and 2-F2’s.   We also had strong straightline winds (RFD), which likely exceeded 100 mph.  Those RFD winds took down the WKY radio tower, which is just down the street from Eyewitness News 5.  We had structural damage here, of which the most notable was a dent in our doppler radar dome.  Take a plastic baseball and squish your thumb in it.  That’s what our doppler dome looked like. 

The “story of the day” came out of the Frontier City Amusement Park.  Keep in mind, all of this happened around 8pm on a Saturday night.  There were over 2,000 people at the park when the tornado hit.  Thanks to excellent warnings and quick thinking, there were fewer than 20 injuries.

I often refer to that storm as the “heads up” storm.  Before that storm, the OKC metro area had been in a tornado drought.  We had gone nearly 6 years without seeing a tornado on the ground in the metro.  In the span of 11 months, from June 13, 1998 to May 3, 1999, we would see 11 tornadoes in the metro.  Those would hit on three different days…June 13 and October 4, 1998 and of course May 3, 1999.  I’ve often wondered–would the death toll had been higher on May 3, 1999 if we had not seen the June 13th/October 4th tornadoes?   What if May 3rd had been the end of the tornado drought?  Would we have been as prepared? 

The National Weather Service in Norman has a great page on their website about the June 13th tornadoes.  You can read about each seperate tornado, how strong the tornado was, how long it was on the ground and the damage caused.   If you do read this, note tornado “B6”.  It was anti-cyclonic!  Here’s the link:  http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/storms/19980613/

We’ve also got our coverage from that day on our website.  This clip lasts 5 minutes.  It was part of a promotional video that was put together after the storm.  The highlight was the tornado redeveloping as it approached the station.  We had a meteorologist in the parking lot showing this live, until they had to go back into the building because it got wayyyyyyyyy too close.  Here’s a link to that coverage:  http://www.koco.com/video/16277456/index.html

Andy

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2 Responses

  1. I was at mercy hospital when all of this was going on everybody was standing at the window staring at it instead of taking cover it just barley missed us they moved all the patients out into the halls and it was pretty wild!

  2. Great blog. My heart is racing and I want it to STORM!!! Thanks!

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