Yesterday's weather brought back instant memories of 19 years ago today. I had hustled home to grab my camera and some film (yes, film) because severe weather was starting to bubble up near my newspaper's coverage area.
My wife arrived home from a long day of teaching preschool and she looked really tired, so I did what any good husband would do. I told her to get in the car, there was a tornado coming and she could be my photographer.
It was an offer she couldn't refuse. We were still childless so we didn't have to worry about things like being responsible. We were recently married and my wife had brought an ideal storm chasing car into the relationship.
An old Buick LeSabre with paint peeling off of every panel and a pre-cracked windshield. The driver's seat was also busted so I got pulled over a few times for looking like a drug dealer.
We headed to Verden to sit on top of one of the towns outcroppings and take picturesque photos of a funnel in a wheat field.
This was before mobile radar and other tools that make chasing safe. Back then, listening to AM radio was the only halfway updated information you could expect.
As we arrived at the spot I had plotted, meteorologists were saying the storm was shifting to the east.
They were right.
The storm first put down a funnel just a few miles south of us. Then it had two friends joining it. With three funnels dancing around each other, we realized that getting out of the way would be a really good idea. As I drove down the wet section-line road, my wife implored me to go faster.
I had to explain that going any faster would likely mean ending up in one of the ditches before we flew away like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz.
Luckily, we made it to Highway 62 before funnels came together into one tornado and caught up to us. We sped to the east and let the tornado go behind us. We turned back north just west of Chickasha and chased it until it was almost a mile wide and tearing up everything in its path. Not even foundations for homes were being left on the ground.
Back then, covering storms was difficult. Today I can take photos and videos from my cell phone and post them to social media and the newspaper's website from that same phone.
In 1999 I was using a Nikon FM2 without a single automatic function. We had to stop at pay phones and call reporters to meet them to get their film and run 20 minutes to the closest one hour photo location that was open after hours.
We stayed up most of the night getting photos processed and stories reported and written. We set up a control center in the newsroom the next morning and hit a 10 a.m. deadline with eight pages of content dedicated strictly to the severe weather that had damaged property and cost lives in our county.
It has become much easier to cover these storms but the potential damage hasn't decreased.
I always say that the weather is always a big news story because it affects everyone who goes outside.
It was true in the days of film and it is still true in the digital age.
Keeping people safe and reporting about the results of the weather are still as important as ever.