May 23rd, 2019. Was a day of patience, We began the day stationed near the town of Pampa, TX. where we sat patiently waiting at a gas station waiting for storms to develop.
After about an hour and a half storms began to fire to our West/North West. 3 storms quickly went up in a row from north to south, unfortunately, it was a very Hazy day due to smoke from wildfires in Mexico drifting up into our area, and the road networks in the area were terrible, so we only had 1 option to keep with the storms, We had to stay on Highway 70 traveling northbound with the storms, but we barely had any visual on these storms due to the smoke, and them staying just out of our range of visibility, at first we stuck with the furthest north storm as it appeared to be the most dominant storm out of the 3 according to radar.
This storm played games with us for what felt like hours, going Tornado warned multiple times while we could not reach it due to roads, and then just as we finally gained visual on it, near the town of Perryton, Tx. it vanished! poof! it was dead!
So, we took this time to get into position to intercept the 2nd storm in the line, we turned East and took a Gravel road for a few miles, “Stair Stepping” our way Northeast towards the town of Follett, TX. to get into position as the 2nd storm was Tracking Northeast towards us, when we got to Follette we made the decision to turn right and position about 6 miles south of town, this would put us in an optimal position for the storm to pass just to our northwest so we could sneak our way into the “Notch”.
As the storm approached us, it began to take shape, with a massive “Beaver Tail” of inflow rushing into the meso, as we were watching this storm take place, we got word that there was a large wedge tornado on the ground to our south, coming from the 3rd storm in the line, near Canadian, TX. So we had to make a choice, do we stick with this storm and hope for the best, or do we rush south to the one that we know already has a tornado on the ground?
And then the storm decided to make the decision for us, it quickly dropped a weak Rope tornado, so quickly that it was gone before I could even turn my camera on, but that didn’t matter, we now knew this storm had what it takes to produce a tornado, so we stuck with it.
We worked our way into the notch and were quickly back on Highway 15, just east of Follette, as we were traveling eastbound a new tornado began to form to our northwest, we turned north onto a gravel road and tracked alongside this tornado, as it touched down, then lifted, then touched down again multiple times, a new Meso was forming to its north, as the 2nd tornado lifted for the last time, a new Large and violent wedge began to touch down out of the new meso.
This new tornado quickly grew into a violent EF-3 wedge as it crossed into the Oklahoma Panhandle, on a direct path towards the town of Laverne, OK. We continued to “Stair Step our way northeast alongside the tornado, until we suddenly got wrapped up in the RFD. we decided to stop and wait out the RFD as it was now dark, Pouring rain, and Hailing we had zero visibility on the tornado and figured our safest option was to just wait it out and continue once it passed, and boy were we lucky that we made that choice!
Once the RFD passed we continued north, we didn’t make it 1/8 mile north before coming across downed power lines (Which we likely would have driven directly into if we hadn’t stopped when we did) we then got out of our vehicles to assess the situation and see if we could safely get passed the power lines, that was when we heard an all too familiar sound… Leaking Propane.
This meant that there had to be a building right beside us that got hit, We quickly grabbed our flashlights and ran towards the sound, We quickly saw a sight that no storm chaser ever wants to come across, Someones home completely gone, nothing left but the cinderblocks it stood on, We then went into Search and Rescue mode, yelling as loud as we could, listening for the faintest of sounds, when suddenly we started hearing a faint Beeping sound, as we searched and made our way closer to the sound, it got louder and louder, it began to sound like a rescue alert device that somebody would be wearing to help search and rescue teams find them, we dug our way through the rubble, which happened to be about 1/8 mile from where the home originally stood, until we finally found the source of the sound… a smoke alarm, this was both a Relief and not at the same time, as this meant we still had to find the homeowner, we then found a walking cane, this was disheartening because it gave us the impression that the homeowner was likely elderly, and home at the time.
As we continued our search through the rubble, a pickup truck pulled into the yard site, we assumed this was likely a neighbor or possibly another Storm Chaser, so we went up to them to ask them if they knew who lived there, their reply was “Yes, me and my wife. We saw the Tornado coming and ran to the truck and left!” OH THANK GOD! we yelled as we proceeded to hug them and celebrate their safety!
We then made the decision to continue towards the town of Laverne, as we assumed they took a direct hit, and would likely require some extra resources, When we arrived we were relieved to learn that the Tornado missed the town, and everybody was Okay.
We took this time to pull over and take a breather, and just when we thought we could relax a little the towns Tornado Sirens began to sound! Another tornado was on the ground and heading towards Laverne. We hopped back into our vehicles and started heading east to get out of the path, we pulled over a few miles east of Laverne and watched as the lightning lit up another Large wedge-shaped funnel, while we were sitting there watching the Town of the Laverne began to move their resources out of town, multiple police, fire, and EMS vehicle drove passed us and sat on the road, waiting to hear the news that their hometown was hit, we waited there with them, watching, and listening.
Suddenly, “We Were Missed, The Town Is Safe,” said a relieved voice over the radio, the Tornado never touched down.
This was the moment we called it a day, we made our way to Woodward, OK. where we met up with a few other chasers at a Mexican restaurant, had some dinner and drinks, and recapped our day.