Under Sooner Skies
The beauty after the storm
Photos by Matt Payne
Oklahoma is a vast land with no shortage of beauty, and with stretches of highways such as Route 66 or the panhandle’s 412, travelers could spend a week visiting landmarks and historical sites. Our primary natural gem, however, is not of the land … but of the heavens. Oklahoma’s sky has a way of augmenting – or upstaging – just about anything you put in front of it. Be it an old barn and a windmill or a dynamic cityscape, when the sky starts doing its thing come dusk or dawn, our state sites become national treasures.
I spent the month of May chasing storms with Oklahoma-owned Channel 9 in conjunction with a project I am doing – covering sometimes up to 900 miles a day – and I saw every kind of sky imaginable. There is nothing quite like driving into a barrage of hailstones, which the pros call “punching the core,” to get ahead of a churning supercell. Or catching glimpses of a funnel between cracks of lightning and pops of power flashes as the twister tears through electric lines. There is a richness to the deep blue that surrounds the gray clouds as you look up into the underside of a rotating wall cloud. And while this kind of imagery can be daunting, there is perhaps nothing more beautiful than the moments after a storm has passed; the air thick with moisture and electricity. Thunder still rumbles in the distance, but the threat of the storm has passed, and the sky, wherever you are, is all yours.
Listen, California … I see your Yosemite, and I raise you a post-tornadic-supercell Oklahoma sunset.
WET AND WILD
Even in a state known for its weather, May was an unusually active month.
As of June 4, the National Weather Service in Norman reported at least 61 tornadoes in Oklahoma during May 2019 (that number might rise on investigation).
Over the previous 10 years, Oklahoma averaged 40 tornadoes during May.
The Oklahoma Mesonet reported 11.13 inches of rainfall in OKC during May 2019.
May 2018’s rainfall was 4.64 inches; the normal amount during the period 1981-2010 was 4.93 inches.