May 4, 2022 a day we will remember forever.

 

Our chase began in the Texas Panhandle where we expected storms to fire off just southeast of Amarillo. It became apparent that the area was too cool and the warm front would not make it up there in time. Meanwhile a storm fired off further south.

 

We adjusted our target to the southern storm and plotted a course for Paducah. The storm right-turned and we intercepted it further south, closer to Guthrie. Dust swirls formed right in front of us and at first, I thought they were just gustnadoes... but moments later a dusty column formed as it was a tornado! It moved eastward and our only road option was south, away from it before we could continue east.†

 

We dropped south, then east on 82 and then north towards Truscott on 6. We reached the storm and a tornado formed to our northwest, just after we stopped to watch it. We watched until it crossed the road north of us and then continued north to Crowell. The tornado was southeast of us moving east at this time.

 

As we drove east on 70 to Thalia the tornado was still moving due east. When we reached Thalia, it was to our southeast and our road turned northeast. It was night time now and we had no visual on the tornado but the location was clear on radar.

 

At this point, we were done with the chase. Reservations were made at our hotel for the nightand we were navigating through the storm to get up to Vernon so we could head east on 287.

 

I looked at the radar to watch for the hail core we would have to drive through. Since my radar image was old, I didnít notice the sharp turn to the north that the tornado took. †In Lockett, wind suddenly picked up from the north and something slammed into the side of the van. We assumed at the time the storm was gusting out, but that soon changed. Winds shifted around rapidly. It became obvious we were in the tornado. Was it coming up from behind us? Already ahead of us? We couldnít determine in the split second we had to react. Our only option was to turn the van into the wind, as a vehicle can handle wind from the front much better than from the side.

 

The front tires got stock in the soft dirt off the road. I saw a power-flash just to our south. Then the passenger front window blew in where I was sitting. The side mirror hit me in the face. Everyone in the van ducked down and took cover. I grabbed my coat to block the window, not realizing that almost all the other windows had also blown out. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed before.

 

Were in the tornado being pounded by debris and high winds for what seemed like forever. It felt like cars were crashing into us from every direction. The wind against my arm and body was indescribable. There is no scene in any movie I have seen that can come close to depicting what it was really like. The wind was extremely intense with debris mixed in. I held my coat over the window with my right arm. (Hind sight, that was not the best thing to do) The van then began to spin as the wind pushed us around. This actually helped keep us pointed more into the wind as it shifted. Finally, it died down. Many factors kept us from being flipped; the turning of the van, the windows blowing out (thus minimizing the surface area for the wind to hit), and of course, - divine intervention.

 

The van came to rest facing the opposite direction and off the side of the road. Other chasers came by. Many asked if we were hurt and/or needed help. Some stopped to help us get unstuck. As we got out and assessed the damage, we noticed there was a large piece of corrugated metal wedged under the van. Seven of the ten windows in the van were blown out and there were large dents in the sides and back. The interior was covered in mud and glass.

 

Everyone was okay and uninjured except for me. I had some minor cuts on my arm, a sore finger and bruises on my side. Nothing that wonít heal in time. Some chasers helped clean and sanitize my arm and we bandaged it with paper towels. I mentioned to one chaser how we werenít in the right area of the storm for a tornado. He informed us that the tornado turned sharply north. Our radar data was not updating so we never knew it had turned.

 

With the help of other chasers, we got the van back on the road. Rocky Rascovich helped transport some people to our hotel. We were able to drive the van to our hotel where we spent the next couple of days making repairs and cleaning out the van.

 

The next day we went back to Lockett to see where we were in the path. The damage path was obvious and we were about at close to the center of the path as could be. For the length of time we were in it, I expected it to have been much wider than it was. Looking at the detailed radar loop later, it appeared to slow down over us considerably.

 

The damage to the van was extensive. The main hits were to the passenger side and rear. The interior, including the remaining windows were coated in glass and mud. My camcorder, which had continued to run, was covered in mud. Debris in the A/C blower locked up and burned out the motor. All that being said, the van continues to run well. Windshield was replaced, glass was replaced with plexiglass (for now), A/C blower was replaced. It is chase worthy again.

 

For those extreme chasers who want to get into a tornado - NO YOU DONíT!!! It was the scariest moment in my life and painful. By the grace of God we were not severely injured or killed.

 

The camcorder:

 

Mud and debris coated the interior:

 

The location we stopped and were spun around, along with debris that hit us:

 

Looking down the road near where we were hit:

 

The path of the tornado based on damage and radar: