The Red Rock Oklahoma Tornado
April 26, 1991

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated.

The spring of 1991 was loaded with tornado events and April 26th produced some of the most violent. It was a busy chase day. I witnessed an impressive supercell that produced 2 funnels that were almost tornadoes. The second of the two funnels came close the ground near the Oklahoma - Kansas border. It later developed a huge rotating mesocyclone that produced the Windfield, Kansas tornado. Due to road problems I let the storm go before the tornado formed. Dropping south into Oklahoma I intercepted a supercell that produced the so called Red Rock, OK tornado shown here. After that I proceeded south and east to observe a large tornado crossing the Cimarron Turnpike southeast of Stillwater, OK. Cars drove into the tornado while it crossed the 4-lane causing one fatality. I later witnessed the same storm produce a huge tornado with a one mile wide damage path north of Tulsa. It moved through sections of Skiatook and nearby Collinsville silhouetted by green power line flashes and continious lightning. It continued to the northeast developing into a large wedge until out of sight very near the town of Oologah where heavy damage was reported.

Facts about the tornado in the following images: It moved from near Garber, OK to near the town of Pawhuska, OK for a path length of 66 miles. A University of Oklahoma chase team used a portable doppler radar to measure wind speeds of 286 MPH. This wind speed is usually associated with F-5 tornadoes, but F-4 damage was the worst found and that's where the tornado was rated. The tornado destroyed a couple of homes and farms and was responsible for six injuries. Fortunately it traveled across rural areas with low population density.

forming tornado west bottom of funnel near farm

The first image depicts a forming tornado about 2 miles west of the camera position in a circling rain curtain. The second image shows the bottom of the funnel as it nears a farm. A light debris circulation may be seen below and trailing behind the funnel.


wide shot of tornado tornado passes farm

This set shows the tornado moving across the farm. Large sections of sheet metal were seen spinning through the air toward cloud base. The rain in the near vicinity of the tornado was decreasing allowing better visibility.


debris cloud lags tornado funnel and debris cloud line up

A more established debris cloud was beginning to spin up as the condensation funnel neared the ground. In the second image the debris cloud caught up with the tornado and became larger.


  funnel moves toward road
 

The tornado continued to move east, but did not plant a condensation funnel on the ground. A strong circulation persisted under the funnel. At this point the damage track as measured immediately after crossing the nearby road was 4/10 of a mile wide. This was measured by my vehicle odometer. The width of this path was quite shocking after seeing only a narrow point of the tornado above the ground.


car is abandoned tornado crosses road - just under one mile north

In a dramatic escape the two occupants of the auto bailed out and took shelter in a nearby drainage ditch. The edge of the vortex crossed their position. They were unhurt. Trees and power poles just north of their position were downed.


condensation snakes to ground condensation funnel grows larger

In this image the tornado finally sent a condensation funnel to ground. The debris cloud remained much larger than the visible funnel.


  base of tornado whips around
 

Looking like a classic tornado the base of the funnel whips around with suction spots circling the outer edge. The tornado was beginning to grow larger. From this point it will grow into a large white cone then a dark dusty wedge as it crosses interstate 35.

Go to Red Rock Part II for the tornado images east of I-35 as it grew to 3/4's of a mile wide.