It's one thing to cover a tornado by looking at radar, it is quite another to be on the ground to see its destruction.
That's exactly what happened last week.
I got in early on Thursday to make sure our team was ready.
Julie was out on jury duty, but was planning on coming in as soon as she could. She wore her "air clothing" to jury duty, and the minute they cut her loose she scrambled in and joined us for our wall-to-wall coverage.
Andy did her morning shift and then left to get a couple hours sleep before coming back in.
George was to roll in Storm Chaser 2. He came in the early afternoon to make sure the live streaming signal was working. Thank goodness he did, because it wasn't working. So our engineers had to fix it before he headed west towards the dry line.
There are many people behind the scenes who you never see, but do an amazing job orchestrating the chaos.
We knew that as soon as the storm went up they would rapidly become severe. Once they began it all went by pretty fast. We covered the storms for five or six hours it was all a blur.
In the end we lost two people in Oklahoma and five more in Arkansas. It is tragic when there is a loss of life, and it makes me wonder if we had done enough. Was there anything more we could have done or said? I always wonder that when we lose a life what we could we have done better.
The decision was not made that night for me to travel three hours to Tuska. I wish I had gone, but honestly I was pretty fried and needed some sleep. The first call I had on Friday was from my boss letting me know I would be there live for the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts. When I got there I saw the usual suspects; The Weather Channel, most of the Oklahoma City stations, some generic satellite trucks, and crews in from Dallas, and the Sherman/Dennison weather department.
It's difficult in words to describe the damage. We've put together a photo gallery of images on KJRH.com that show just how much damage was done to this tiny town.
After a while you fall back on the overused terms, "it looks like a war zone" and "total devastation." The school was rubble, many homes pealed from their foundation, and random things, like a bathtub were resting under a tree. Imagine a city put in a tumble dryer and you've got Tuska. I took my camera and snapped some shots, but it doesn't really capture the somber feel of seeing it in person.
On television, there isn't time to share all of the personal stories you hear.
One of the most dramatic came from a lady I met named, Dovie Walker. She was slowly going through her personal belongings. The roof of her two-story home was gone. The windows were blown out and the lace curtains blew in the wind. Her front porch was drooping to nearly the ground. I really didn't want to bother her, but I had to ask, "Were you in here when the tornado hit?" Dovie smiled and explained that she and her husband rushed out of the house just seconds before the tornado hit. They had built a storm shelter just 5 feet from the front porch. They didn't see their home being destroyed but heard it. She had a great attitude, and was thankful they had survived. Neighbors and family were helping her salvage through the lifetime of memories that once hung on the walls. Her positive attitude was inspiring.
I saw a group of young men holding a dog wrapped in a towel. They told me they had found it wondering the street and were looking for the owner. There were trophies still sitting on the shelves at the elementary school, even though the roof and walls had been destroyed. Just before my 6 p.m. live shot, I found an ungraded test from a student that was strewn under a tree. I wondered if that kid will ever find out how he did.
No, seeing it on television doesn't give it justice.
It is one thing to see a tornado on radar, but when you walk the streets and see the power and destruction they inflict, you are never quite the same.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Severe Weather Safety
Tornadoes are Mother Nature's most violent storms. They can produce winds that can reach 300 miles per hour, and they can produce damage paths as wide as a mile and as long as 50 miles.
Another storm season is here, and that means it's time to make sure you and your family are ready for the storms that will head our way.
What you need to do to prepare before the a thunderstorm, how to stay safe during the storm and then once the storm passes what you need to know.