With every major weather event there are a million stories to be told… those of loss and destruction, close calls, and heroes. Today I would like to share with you my story from the weekend of April 13th-15th as a weather intern.
On the 12th, I was doing OU Nightly (my college's broadcast) and tried my hardest to stress to people the dangerous outlook for the coming weekend. That evening I prepared by making sure I had pictures of the rooms in my house in case something were to happen and I needed them for insurance, made sure I had everything done for school because I knew it would be a long and very busy weekend, and made sure my friends and family were aware of what could happen. This was all I knew to do; I will not lie when I say that I was very nervous about what could happen this weekend.
After my classes on Friday the 13th, I went to the station. I was assigned to answer the phones, take reports from callers and assist them in any way I could. Even before the storms fired up the phones were ringing off the hook as people prepared for what the weather team had been forecasting. During severe weather Michael Armstrong is the primary contact for our storm chasers, he makes sure they're in the right places and keeps in contact with them comparing what we're seeing on radar to what they're actually seeing in the storm. I helped Michael this day by making sure the storm tracker's videos were running at all times as well as at times making sure they were on the getner so Gary could talk to them on air if he wanted.
As storms start becoming severe and producing tornadoes things in the weather center become very intense, it's really an atmosphere unlike any other. On Friday afternoon, I was told to call Val and send him to a certain location in Norman. As soon as I hung up the phone I realized if Val was going there… there was a good chance I wouldn't have a house when I returned home. Panic ran through my body… it was a situation I never dreamed would actually happen. It took me a minute, but I realized it would be ok… Everything in my house could be replaced, as long as my dog, Mr. Speckles, was okay. I took a deep breath and told myself he would be fine and there were so many more important things to be focused on right now, so I went back to my work. It wasn't long before we started getting many calls about damage and started seeing pictures. It was heartbreaking, 20 people were reported injured and many lost their homes. But that wasn't the end of the day… there were more storms, and more tornadoes. I can't recall exactly what time I left the station, but it was late. Only to go home and prepare for another day of the same thing.
On Saturday, the 14th I was scheduled to be at the station by 2 p.m. As soon as I arrived, Gary took me and showed me what my job for the day was going to be. He handed me his iPad and told me that when tornado warnings come out to mark exactly where the location on the warning is. This would help us keep track of each different storm. I couldn't believe that now not only was I helping the team during severe weather, I was right beside Gary while I was doing it.
Another day of many memories and storms, but what I (along with many other people) will never forget are the words coming from Marty Logan, one of our News 9 storm trackers. Just before midnight on the 14th, Marty began telling us he could see a tornado just outside of Woodward… and it was headed straight for town. The sirens in Woodward didn't sound because they were damaged from a lightning strike. So not only was it a nighttime tornado… but one without tornado sirens, a recipe for disaster. Marty lives in Ft. Supply, which is just outside of Woodward, so he knew the town, knew the people, and knew that the after prom party was going on. He started contacting the fire department and everyone he could to warn them… while we listened… and with each lightning strike we could see the tornado in Marty's video. I've never felt so helpless in my life, I just wanted to be able to wake up everyone and get them to safety. But all we could do was hope that they were awake and listening to Marty.
I left the station at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. We had done wall to wall coverage for 13 hours straight. This was a weekend I wish more than anything had never happened, but will be in my heart forever. This outbreak was a reminder of how extremely important it is to be weather aware at ALL times.
I know that this weekend meant something different to each and every Oklahoman, and now you know what it meant for this Oklahoman as an intern in the News 9 Weather Center.