Dan Robinson was the guy heading south, then rapidly east, in the hopes of staying on a parallel northward track to the May 31st, 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma tornado. I can appreciate a man driving towards such a thing.
In his words:
‘I was not trying to get close. I knew from how the tornado first appeared that it would be very large, violent and dangerous. My goal was simply to remain in a good position for photography and video, which I felt would be best with the tornado backlit by the bright skies to the southwest. I wanted to be just close enough to have a high-contrast view. ‘
It turns out that particular evening, many of the variables leading to supercell formation, and even EF5 tornado formation, were in place. So many were in place, in fact, that this became one of the most violent and dangerous tornadoes ever recorded.
It changed directions suddenly. It slowed down to 5 mph and sped up to nearly 50 mph. 2.6 miles wide at one point? 300 mph wind?
Eight people died.
The guy in a Toyota Yaris, slipping on a wet, gravely Oklahoma road unable to disable traction control doesn’t exactly come off a hero. The guy suddenly racing for his life, enveloped in the outer wind-field, is easily criticized. Bigger balls than many? Maybe. Stupid enough to get killed? Possibly.
Thanks, Dan, for chasing on your own dime, sharing your information, and respecting the wishes of the families of those in the car behind you. That was the last anyone saw of them.
It is what it is.
From the Weather Service video below: A small percentage of the world’s surface supports the kinds of extreme clashing air masses found on the U.S. plains. Very few thunderstorms become supercells, and very few of those supercells form tornadoes. Even fewer tornadoes become violent F4 and F5 monsters which spawn sub-vortices and anti-cyclones.
The El Reno, Oklahoma tornado from 2013 took the lives of eight people, including experienced stormchasers known for their judgment and contributions to the rest of us.
A sad day.