The dark side of spring in the Southern Plains: Oklahoma tornadoes, May 19

I’ve written a number of posts about the importance of getting outside and embracing the elements, no matter how unpleasant that might be. Bitter cold, high heat, rain, snow — these unpleasantries can teach you things and make you stronger. Mental toughness is often what you need to battle the things that the natural world throws at you — heat, cold, storms, altitude and whatnot. Mental toughness is also what you need to “conquer” yourself.

But yesterday I was reminded that those elements sometimes go way beyond taxing. Sometimes the elements are malevolent. Deadly. Unstoppable.

I’ve been living in the Southern Plains for nearly 30 years. West of the Rockies from south Texas all the way up into southern Canada, and southeast into the Gulf Coast, tens of millions of us live in places prone to massive thunderstorms and the tornadoes they sometimes bring. We’ve had a mellow spring so far this year, even a bit on the cool side. It wasn’t mellow yesterday in my former hometown.

Tornadic storms thrashed the Oklahoma City area before heading northeast. They petered out before hitting my new hometown of Tulsa, but left their mark in my old hometown of Shawnee. Dozens of homes and other buildings were damaged or destroyed, many people were injured and two people were killed.

These were massive storms spawning huge tornadoes. Poring over social media, I snagged these photos.

This one was taken from the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Shawnee.

Todd Fisher photo

Todd Fisher photo

Here is another shot of the same tornado, taken earlier, looking northwest. This photo was taken about a half mile from where I used to live.

Rachel Hankins photo

Rachel Hankins photo

Another angle of that tornado, looking east, shows a closer look at this deadly storm.

KWTV photo

KWTV photo

And here’s another, taken from Oklahoma Baptist University, looking northwest.

Jason Melot photo

Jason Melot photo

Like I said, this wasn’t the only tornado that hit central Oklahoma on Sunday. Another very large and dangerous tornado smashed into the small town of Carney. Below is a video of that storm.

Sobering stuff. I know this is a post out of the normal boundaries of what I normally write about. But sometimes things like this are a good reminder about what the elements can do under certain circumstances. It’s a display of awesome power.

Unfortunately, when such power meets our fragile little lives, bad things happen. When it hits a place you used to call home, a place where a lot of friends still live, it hits just a little harder.

It’s supposed to be another rough one today, weather-wise. Here’s hoping we don’t have a repeat of Sunday’s events.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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2 thoughts on “The dark side of spring in the Southern Plains: Oklahoma tornadoes, May 19

  1. That video was amazing. Those guys must be just a litle bit crazy to be that close. I don’t know how fast a tornado moves but they seemed really close.
    People in New Engalnd go to the shore when a hurricane is comming. Same idea I guess. I’ve never seen video like that before.

    • It’s a risk, for sure, because if you are ahead of it, you don’t know exactly what path it will take. Tornadoes can turn, left, and then reform pretty fast. It looks from the video that they were anywhere from a half- to quarter-mile away — barely out of reach.

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