May 25, 2011

First Hand Account of Joplin Tornado by Roger Hill, a Colleague of Mine

Adding pictures to older Blog sure to check below

."...Well, might as well throw in what happened to us this day, but PLEASE understand what happened was TOTALLY unintentional. 

We started the day in Tulsa and drifted north into southeast Kansas. Was on the pile of junk cluster of cores spewing outflow from Parsons, through far southeastern Kansas. Several new cells formed south of the outflow boundary from the storms north of Columbus, and as they developed, they crossed into cold air, spun for a few minutes and then became hailers. Near Crestline, KS we encountered a cell that produced near baseballs on us. It had a nice wall cloud, but quickly crossed into the cold outflow air and weakened. Seeing the storm that would eventually become the Joplin wedge producer develop, we moved east into Joplin, with intent to drop onto 44. We came into town on Mc Arthur Dr, and then turned south onto 71B. This was about 20 minutes before the tornado formed. Running low of fuel and many tour guests in need of a restroom stop, we stopped on 71B. I just happened to look at radar and see the storm right turn along the OFB and develop a strong hook. We ended up blowing off the gas/restroom break and headed south to get out of the way in case the supercell was producing a tornado. 

As we drove south, the notch was becoming visible as rain curtains were wrapping intensely on the east side of the now wedge. We were directly in the path of this monster and I knew we were in serious trouble if we didn't get out of the way. We were now crossing 44 Business and heading south toward the I-44 corridor and trying desparately to get out of town. Traffic was oblivious to the situation developing, and there were NOT any tornado sirens to be heard! As we crossed 15th street, numerous power flashes occured just to out west. People were walking around and not paying any attention to what was going on. We yelled out to take cover NOW, and several laughed at us. Two vehicles were next to us at a traffic light and we told them what was going on and they totally ignored us. As we crossed 20th street headed south, things got worse than I have ever witnessed. Intense rapid rotating rain curtains were only a few hundred yards west of us, and all power went off. Traffic lights ceased working and we knew we had to take things into our control and blow threw them. We weaved in and out of cars with our flashers on as vehicles stopped in the middle of the road and watched. Cars were going northbound and I shutter to think what happened to them. We honked, yelled out to any vehicle or person WALKING up the street to take cover and then had to get south. As we approached 29th street rain curtains blew from southwest to northeast and chunks of debris started falling as continued power flashes were occuring extremely close to us. Westerly winds picked up to at least 80 mph as we weaved in and out of traffic, finally approaching the interstate. We turned east of 44 and then south on 71. One of the most intense moments of my life and shows how quickly things can evolve when you least expect it! Jeff P's video was extreme and he was not far from us, but he was there intentionally. I was not. 

Later we witnessed the cone near Southwest City, and then a stovepipe west of Siloam Springs that damaged a bunch of mobile homes. Absolutely insane day, one I will never forget. 

An absolutely horrific experience for the poor souls of Joplin. A good friend of mine was the manager of the Pepsi plant there and it was totally leveled, with a few of his friends now deceased. ...."