Well, it finally happened. I finally saw my first tornado on May 23, 2016 in Woodward, Oklahoma. I have been waiting for my husband to catch me one for five years. We have gone chasing a handful of times on very promising days and at the most saw hail. I thought I was bad luck! Whenever I’d go out on a chase, the day would fizzle. The days I would stay back, he’d see amazing tornadoes.
I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to chasing, and I have a list of ‘tornado-must-haves’ for the tornado I want to see. You see, I absolutely hate driving. I hate being in the car for extended periods of time, in the middle of no where, with no one around; quite simply it makes me very anxious. I am not one of those people that loves the open road and having no one around. I mean, what if a tire blew or I choke on food? So days I actually go chasing, I have to be in the right state-of-mind. Aaron and I have his favorite weather app (Radar Scope) running the entire time that shows other chasers in the area and depicts them as little dots on the map. Call me crazy, but I get comfort in seeing those little dots around us when we’re in butt-f*ck Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, etc…
My ‘must-have’ list for a tornado consists of the following:
1. The tornado must be within a few hours of my starting point so I don’t have to be in the car for 14+ hours.
2. The tornado can only hit fields, it can’t hit a populated area.
3. References to the movie Twister must happen as often as possible.
4. The tornado must be obvious. It must have that iconic wedge look to it.
5. It must be accessible to see and chase on a paved road. I don’t want to be stuck in mud in the middle of no where (what if the dots can’t find us?)
6. A ‘selfie’ opportunity is a must.
Our day started off…hesitant. Aaron wasn’t sure if the storm would develop or not. It was a promising day, all the ingredients for a tornado were there, but it wasn’t certain. After a few hours of careful forecasting and analysis on his part, we decided to get on the road and chase the storm 2 hours to our West. I love my husband,I support him, I know he knows what he’s doing, but given my track record, I was preparing for a bust. In my mind, this was a fun little road trip with my hubby to western Oklahoma, so, I started the road trip playlist and began taking photos for my blog of me being bored waiting for a tornado that was never going to happen.
I know, I know, it was kind of mean of me, but in my defense, I hadn’t seen a tornado in 5 years. I played the part of navigator (which is comical, because I’m very bad at it) while he forecasted. He would stare out the window at the clouds and make predictions based off what the clouds were doing. He was one step away from grabbing the dirt and becoming a human barometer. He was definitely channeling his inner Bill Harding, while I was more like Melissa, drink in hand saying “Hey where’re we going?” Except looking back at it, since I was navigator I should have known…huh…now I’m thinking I didn’t really play a roll at all that day.
Aaron’s human barometer skills were on point. We had been parked in Woodward, OK for about a half hour trying to determine if anything was going to happen or if we should cut our losses and head back to OKC. He saw something in
the clouds radarscope , and decided to drive north. And wouldn’t you know it? There wasn’t a tornado…nope, not yet at least. The storm, as I learned, was cycling. Yes, I learned all about the life cycle of a tornado, what scud, downdrafts, and outflows all were.
The storm was teasing me. It looked promising, looked like the tornado was going to drop, then it would cycle out (I don’t know if that’s the right terminology, but that’s what I’m saying). We ended up waiting an hour for the storm to mature. Then it happened. Not only did the tornado finally drop, but it hit everything on my ‘must-have’ list. It was incredible. I learned that it was the ‘best’ tornado experience because it didn’t move, it stayed in one spot and it stayed there for a long time, long enough for me to take a tornadoie (that’s right, a tornado selfie).
It was glorious! I have officially crossed seeing a tornado off my bucket list because I finally saw my first tornado!
If you’re in the weather field at all, odds are you’ve watched the movie Twister. It’s a movie that’s been around for 20 years (incredible). If you are ever chasing in Oklahoma or live in Oklahoma, it’s should be mandatory for you to visit the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK where Aunt Meg lived. Below are the steps a weatherman and a Meteorologist must take when visiting the Twister Museum:
Call the Twister Museum ahead of time to make sure they are open. If they are, put on a weather related t-shirt (in this case, Aaron chose KFOR’s sister station KAUT) and head over!
Find a kick @$$ road trip partner and drink caffeinated drinks & eat sugary snacks to fuel yourself for the road trip.
Once you are fueled up on caffeine and sugar, enjoy the wind in your hair and sing 90’s songs at the top of your lungs (Backstreet’s back, alright!?).
Once you find Wakita, do not drive past it without realizing it. It is a town of 400 with a few stop signs. If you do drive past it (like we did) find the iconic water tower (take pictures with it) and turn around as the road you came in on was the main road in Wakita. Don’t worry, the speed limit is 15mph-you have time:
Flashback to Austin Powers:
The Twister Museum is the last ‘store’ on the East side of the main road, park outside and find the owner of the museum, Linda:
Have Linda take you on a tour of the museum. It’s almost mandatory to have Linda show you around. She has stories about every piece, every actor, every ‘behind the scene’ experience, it’s absolutely wonderful to hear her stories about the making of the movie Twister.
Thank Linda for a wonderful experience, donate some money to the museum, and take parting shots (make sure to wear sunglasses as the Oklahoma wind is no joke in Wakita).
On your way out of Wakita, don’t forget to find Aunt Megs house to reenact the food scene.
Haha, just kidding, they tore it down after the movie was made, but there is a nice overgrown memorial garden(?) in it’s place with a nice brick road homage to The Wizard Of Oz movie.
Not a mandatory step, but since Twister is the most accurate tornado movie out there, I thought I’d share this YouTube video that features Everything Wrong with the Twister Movie.
Honey, take notes, we clearly need to have a Dodge Ram and you need to start reading dirt to be an accurate tornado chaser.
If you would like to visit the Twister Museum please follow the link: http://www.twistercountry.com/ Their 20 year celebration is in September 2015!