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Oklahoma tornadoes: Wild weather too close for comfort, Oklahoman photographer says

Photographer for The Oklahoman feared she might become “one of the stories” while in the field covering Friday's storms.
by Sarah Phipps Modified: June 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm •  Published: June 2, 2013

Friday, when the tornado sirens sounded for the Oklahoma County area, photographer Chris Landsberger and I left The Oklahoman building to try to cover the storms.

It was our plan to head south and follow behind the storm to photograph the debris. It is a plan we have used a million times, but this time was different. It did not go smoothly and it all started with the traffic.

Interstate 235 quickly became a parking lot with frightened residents fleeing south. We exited as soon as possible and tried to navigate south via the side roads. Even the gravel country roads were wall-to-wall traffic. We eventually headed west on SW 119.

I don't know if the El Reno storm turned south or new storms popped up around us, but it seemed as though the storm was insistent on following us south. We could see I-44 ahead of us and it was backed up as far as the eye could see. We looked north and it was a wall of black. As we stood still in traffic, Chris and I both looked at the clouds swirling above us. Around and Around the clouds went. We were stuck and out of options. We were forced to take the first road south and it became a dead end on private land.

There were at least seven other cars parked on the farmland and we all rode out the storm there, hoping for the best. Our car rocked back and forth as we were pelted with blinding rain until it became clear to begin travel north. I don't know how long it was but it felt like an eternity.

We finally made our way to I-44 until it was shut and we were forced to exit on SW 29th. The residential streets were flooded every direction we took. Cars were floating in the middle of the road. Once again traffic was everywhere and it was mass chaos.

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by Sarah Phipps
Born in Missouri, Sarah Phipps graduated of Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in Mass Communication and French in 1999. After an internship with the St. Joe News-press, Sarah moved to Oklahoma for a full-time job at the...
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