Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 20, 2013: A Personal Timeline of the Moore Tornado

It's hard to believe a year has already passed since one of the more trying days I've experienced. I will always remember May 20, 2013 as the day my lifelong love and intrigue of weather hit home -- both figuratively and literally. Here's a chronological look back at a personal timeline of events on that terrible May Monday.

I relay the graphicast and correlating text issued at 248am by the Norman National Weather Service Forecast Office calling for the potential of enhanced severe weather, including tornadoes, for much of central OK.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issues a mesoscale discussion discussing the likelihood of a tornado watch being issued, including the following text:


A tornado watch is issued covering all of central OK and the OKC metro. I am constantly in contact with Elyse who is at her office in downtown OKC.

Storms rapidly intensify just to the west of the metro and the first severe thunderstorm warning is issued for Cleveland and Oklahoma Counties. I leave work and advise Elyse to stay in downtown as she does not have enough time to beat the storm home.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Tuttle
Elyse calls to tell me she has just left her office (ignoring my request) and is headed south toward our home in Moore -- directly into the path of the storm. I frustratingly tell her to turn back around and go to our friends' apartment downtown.

I arrive at our house near the intersection of SE 4th and Bryant in Moore just before the hail core from the now well-developed supercell reaches it. At the same time, the cell becomes tornado-warned. Moore is directly in the path.

I rush into the house to turn on the local news who at this point have begun to stream live shots of the storm from multiple angles. I also begin rounding up our important documents and Skyler (our yellow lab); trying to decide whether I will shelter in place or leave the house behind should it approach. I attempt to get ahold of our neighbors who have a shelter but am unsuccessful. After deciding there is no proper place in our home to take shelter, I make the decision to pack up the truck.

My focus shifts back to the TV -- watching as a tornado rapidly develops near I-44 in Newcastle (approximately 12 miles WSW of the house), and is quickly growing in size and strength.

The track of the tornado, which once appeared to be moving south of the house, now puts central Moore (and our home) directly in its path. In a matter of seconds, the tornado quickly becomes violent. I set the alarm and start up the truck.

A tornado emergency is issued for Moore and the OKC metro.

I have waited five long minutes in the garage with the door open for the hail to decrease in size adequately enough for me to head out (trying not to lose a windshield). During this time I am listening to live coverage on the radio. The tornado has now entered SW sides of OKC and western sides of Moore. Time to go.

I leave the neighborhood and drive east, deciding the best course of action is to head back to Norman. The next 25 minutes could best be described as emotionally taxing. It is so difficult at this point to get a call through but I am able to get ahold of my Aunt Rita, our State Farm agent (and the agent of many others in Moore and OKC), alerting her of the situation as she is returning from an out-of-town trip. I am also able to reach my parents in Dallas, trying to calmly describe what is going on and the fact Elyse and I are both safe. While on these calls I can hear local meteorologists on the radio pinpointing the block-by-block location and path of the now mile-wide tornado as it is moving through Moore. I've now come to the realization there is a high likelihood of losing our home.

At about 330pm I get back to Norman and run inside with the dog to catch more of the local news coverage. I am able to reach Elyse using the hardline at work -- she is understandably shaken (as am I at this point), after hearing reports the tornado went right over SE 4th and Bryant (very close to our house).

I get this message out via Facebook to family and friends trying to reach us:

A long hour waiting for other storms to clear out of the area. We still don't know the fate of the neighborhood but fear the worst. I continue to post updates on Facebook as cell service is down.

The decision is made to head back toward Moore and attempt to find out the status of the house. It takes over an hour to make the 12 mile drive from the OU campus back into Moore and we are allowed by Moore police to park on the side of SE 4th just west of Sunnylane and then make the 1 mile walk to the neighborhood. I witness the tornado's damage path for the first time in person.

I am shocked and devastated to see the damage along SE 4th St.

We almost make it to the SE 4th and Bryant intersection but are asked to leave the area due to a gas leak. At this point, we still don't know what kind of damage (if any) there was in our neighborhood. I return to the truck and try to access from the north along Bryant.....

I finally make it into the neighborhood, breathing a huge sigh of relief as it was spared. The tornado had narrowed in width on our side of town (half of what it was to the west of I-35) keeping the damage path 3 blocks to our south.

We are so fortunate.


It is difficult to express in words the emotional roller-coaster that took place that day. Going from having come to terms with the fact your house was gone to finding out it had been spared was a lot to take in. Unfortunately, others near us were not so lucky.

The days, weeks, and months that have passed since have demonstrated how tough our community is. Rebuilding is well underway and nearly complete in some areas near us. There is absolutely no doubting the Oklahoma spirit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why this year's version of the OKC Thunder might be its best ever.

Leading up to the 2013-14 NBA season, many question marks surrounded the OKC Thunder and whether or not it could be considered a serious contender for the title. Would Russell Westbrook, coming off MCL surgery, return as explosive and aggressive as the RW0 we were used to, and when exactly would he return? How would OKC account for the loss of Kevin Martin? Would his departure leave a void on the Thunder bench?

So many questions, in fact, when it was announced Westbrook might need an additional six weeks to return to the court, sportsbooks in Vegas dropped the Thunder's predicted regular season win total to a mere 50 games, 10 fewer than the 2012-2013 season.

Well, we are now just past the one-quarter mark of the season and many, if not all, of these questions have been answered in a fashion not even the most optimistic of Thunder fans could have hoped for.
At 18-4, OKC is off to its best start since making the move from Seattle, and is on pace to win 67 games -- blowing away its win total from last season. So impressive has OKC's play been through 22 games, it would not be out of the question to forecast this being the best Thunder product in franchise history.

Westbrook has returned and has shown few signs of rust or lingering effects from knee surgery. Save for a slightly disappointing percentage from the free throw line well below his career average, he appears as aggressive as ever, attacking the rim at will as in seasons past.

Of course it goes without saying Kevin Durant continues to impress, showing improvement in court vision we saw flashes of during the 2013 playoffs, averaging nearly five assists while maintaining his traditional scoring pace that has led to three scoring titles in the past four seasons.

Reggie Jackson
As far as the void left behind by Kevin Martin's departure to Minnesota, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have more than filled it, averaging an encouraging 21.8 points per game combined off the bench. Jackson, who gained invaluable experience filling in for the injured Westbrook during the playoffs last year, seems destined for a major free agent contract following the 2014-15 season. A fact I'm sure Thunder GM Sam Presti is already very concerned with.

Jeremy Lamb
Meanwhile, Lamb, a major piece exchanged in the James Harden trade, has seen a drastic increase in minutes. Starting off the season, the pressure of becoming the wing scorer the Thunder desperately needed off the bench seemed to take its toll on Lamb who struggled early on. However, during the course of December, Lamb has averaged 10.0 points on 52% shooting and 41% from the three point line. Scott Brooks appears to have noticed, as Lamb has seen a drastic increase in playing time during the fourth quarter over the past few weeks. Most who follow me know I am a big fan of Lamb's, and his play of late is only reinforcing that.

And how about the addition of Steven Adams to OKC's front line? Averaging nearly as many minutes as starting center Kendrick Perkins, Adams, although still very young and raw, seems to be the agile big man with reliable hands the Thunder will need to compete in the West, especially if Presti decides to amnesty Perkins following the season. I don't think it would be far-fetched to speculate this could end up being the best Thunder second unit we've seen. You have the attacker in Jackson, the wing scorer in Lamb, and now the low-post presence in Adams.

Of course, the regular season matters very little anymore to fans in OKC, who have their eyes focused solely on winning the West and returning to, if not winning, the NBA Finals. This will be the true measure of how this team compares to the one that won four in a row against the Spurs en route to the Western Conference title in 2012. Can all these new pieces continue to coalesce and finally get the national media off Presti's back for trading Harden? Could this be the best Thunder we've seen in OKC? Something tells me yes on both accounts.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More good news for downtown OKC.

Yesterday rumors began to circulate the likes of Facebook and Twitter that OPUBCO will be relocating its HQ from its current location on the Broadway Extension back to downtown later this year. While another company moving downtown is excellent news in and of itself the even better news is that OPUBCO will be renovating the eyesore that is Century Center Plaza. Century Center was part of a (failed) urban renewal attempt at a downtown retail/office center decades ago and has sat unoccupied for years.

The property sits on a prime corner of downtown core business district property -- especially now that Devon Energy Center has revitalized this portion of the area. However, its rather boring and aged exterior has dissuaded many would-be tenants from making use of the great location. As you can see in the map below, it takes up a sizeable chunk of the block bounded by Robinson Ave. on the west, Main St. on the north, and Sheridan on the south.

That is all now about to change with Monday's article posted on NewsOK (found here) detailing that OPUBCO will be moving its 350 employees into a renovated Century Center. Here is the rendering of the updated exterior that was posted along with the article:

The new design calls for a completely redesigned glass facade -- removing the decades old concrete that has made downtown'ers shake their heads for years. In addition, two more levels of parking will be added on top of the current parking garage helping alleviate concerns over downtown parking availability. Plans also call for a large video board on the southwest corner as well as a headline restaurant just below with street access.

For sure this is great news not only for OPUBCO employees, but for the continued growth of downtown OKC as well. The building, once renovated, will have the potential to house 500 employees which is approximately the number Continental Resources currently houses in its headquarters downtown. So we aren't talking about small potatoes here. This move will mean even more substantial traffic in the CBD and surely new development in response won't be far behind.

Side note: I'm hearing rumors that OG&E and Continental Resources will both be announcing new HQ construction downtown in the near future.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 In Review

What would the end of the year be without the obligatory "What has happened in the past year" post? I know, I know, you see these from just about everybody and are by now bored with them, but 2012 was a pretty great year, and here is why:

On the 15th-18th I was taken on an awesome bachelor party to Las Vegas by 8 of my closest friends, designed and implemented by Brent East (@oubrent). Memorable trip events:

  • Aria Sky Suites (and all the fine amenities that came with)
  • Going 9-0 on Thursday the 15th 
  • Consuming the best steak I've ever had on Friday the 16th at Estiatorio Milos in The Cosmopolitan
  • Brent's epic Planet Hollywood blackjack hand
  • Blue Man Group

Vegas is the best.

There really isn't much to say about April.
I'm just kidding of course (sorry honey). On April 13, 2012 I had the privilege of marrying the love of my life, Elyse Richardson.


The day was memorable not only for the ceremony itself, but also the tornado that came rolling through Norman just an hour before. I couldn't have planned it better myself.

We were blessed to get to spend the 16th-22nd on our honeymoon in Maui. There are no words to describe how incredible this island is.

The Thunder made a phenomenal run to the NBA Finals after winning the Western Conference title. It was so awesome getting to be a part of this.

On Wednesday the 5th Elyse and I bought our first home. After personally living in Norman for just over 10 years I said goodbye to "the barn" in southeast Norman as we moved closer to downtown OKC, choosing a nice neighborhood in Moore.

The year has come to a close nicely by getting to spend our first married Christmas together in our new home.

While 2012 was a banner year in many ways, I really am looking forward to what's to come in 2013.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why the USGA and R&A still don't get "it"

This morning the governing bodies of golf, the United States Golf Association (@USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club moved forward with a ban on a putting stroke using any sort of "anchored" position (Information can be found here http://www.usga.org/news/2012/November/Proposed-Rules-Change-to-Prohibit-Anchoring/). Once again these two organizations have shown they simply don't get "it" when it comes to the future of the game of golf.

Over the course of a year I teach some 300 adults and kids who are new to the game of golf. At the beginning of each instruction program I ask these groups what they think are some of the reasons the number of golfers in the United States is declining. Nearly every single one of them says it's because the game is too difficult or frustrating along with being too time-consuming for today's much more fast-paced society.

So if I was someone considering learning the game of golf why in the world would I want to make an effort to play a game that is continually becoming more shackled by its rules? Most beginners don't even know what "anchoring" the putter means, but they don't need to, because all they take away from this sort of thing is that the game is now being made more difficult for them.

After teaching for nearly seven years well over a thousand juniors and adults I can without a doubt say the USGA should be doing everything it can to make the game of golf easier if it wants to sustain or encourage some kind of long-term growth. Allow manufacturers to make drivers as hot as possible, or wedges that spin like a top, and any other way to provide more fun to the average golfer. Don't force them to stop making clubs that generate interest and excitement. At the same time limit the restrictions that are currently being levied upon all golfers to just those on professional tours (sans anchoring of course which is just a knee-jerk reaction).

I could go on and on about all the statistics showing that belly and long putters in fact have no real advantage yet just provide a different method for making a stroke at the golf ball, but that's not what this post is about. What this is about is the USGA creating the appearance of a much more restrictive game of golf, one that does not get the average golfer excited to play. Golf is no longer a game of growth, it is a game of decline and has been for the past several years (see: http://golfweek.com/news/2011/dec/12/october-report-shows-rounds-played-fell-again/) Would it be so bad if everyone felt like they could shoot 70 without being handcuffed by the type of club they can use? What if the belly putter got 10 golfers this week so enthused about trying something new that they each went out and played a round of golf they otherwise wouldn't have? Wouldn't this be good for the game? Conversely, what if this rule change turns someone away from the game by making it more difficult for them?  This rule change is without a doubt bad for the future growth of the game. The governing bodies of golf have lost touch with the average player and this is why they simply don't get "it."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black Friday 2012

I seem to have taken on the reputation of being able to find good deals on a variety of things....it's almost a hobby of mine. Ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you I have a habit of making sure I get the absolute lowest price on any major (or heck sometimes even minor) purchase. It's pretty much like the show "Extreme Couponing" on TLC but without all the crazy people with hundreds of coupons at checkout. I get asked a lot about my methods but it's really tough to show friends and family exactly how I do it without having a computer around. So with Black Friday just around the corner I thought I'd share a few of my favorite techniques . While some of these do require a bit of research (and sometimes a lot of reading) it is almost always worth the extra effort.

During the weeks leading up to Black Friday, I find myself perusing www.bfads.net most often to locate BF deals and also find leaked ads for all the different stores having sales. This is good for both the buyer who knows exactly what he/she wants or the buyer who just wants to see what the best deals are. On the homepage you can either search for a specific item at the top of the page or find a specific store's adscan on the left side of the page. I try to avoid any sales that are in-store only as I'm not a fan of crowds or lines so I stick to the ones that will be available online as well. However, if you enjoy all the excitement of standing outside in 30-degree weather waiting for doors to open be my guest.

My favorite deal-finding site during other times of the year is www.slickdeals.net (or just "Slickdeals" as I call it). Slickdeals is a website of avid deal-searchers like myself who post discounted prices they find on particular items and then other users can participate in discussion. Let's say, for instance, I am in the market for a new washer/dryer set and wanted to find out if there were any good deals available. I would go to the Slickdeals homepage and in the search in the top right corner would type "washer dryer." This will instantly bring up all recent posts containing deals on washer and dryers. I used this particular method last holiday shopping season and was able to score an awesome, awesome deal on a set from Best Buy. It required a couple of steps (price-matching to a sale at Sears, being at Best Buy at a certain time) but they were all laid out in the post (including an additional step that netted us a $100 Best Buy gift card too).

Other tips to save money on online purchases:

You'd be surprised to know you can earn cash back just by routing through one online site to get to another. Microsoft made this a big deal a couple years ago when they launched "Bing Cashback" (now deceased). But new sites such as www.fatwallet.com and www.rewardsrunner.com allow you to search for an online retailer and earn cash back if you make an online purchase from that retailer after using their sites to get there.

For instance right now FatWallet is offering 5% cash back at The Home Depot. So let's say you find a great Black Friday deal on a tool set that can be purchased online from The Home Depot -- make the deal even better by creating an account on FatWallet, route to The Home Depot's website through www.fatwallet.com, and then make the purchase. It will take about a day or so for the transaction to be verified and then you can request a check by mail or even have the rebate sent through PayPal. Bang. It's that easy.

This post could go on and on about all the different methods I use to save money whenever I can but really it just comes down to research. If you spend a little extra time on the web, you can save yourself tons of money and be more informed when making the purchase as well. As always, if you have any questions or want more info, just leave a comment! Happy shopping.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Notes:

Election Eve:

  • It's election eve and I've been thinking about something Elyse said over the weekend. She mentioned feeling that the current way candidates campaign seems antiquated in that there are much easier ways of reaching large audiences now. Why haven't either of the two candidates tried more frequent use of web-conference techniques as opposed to traveling to four different states in a day? I vaguely remember one YouTube event with President Obama but that's it.
  • The Twitter accounts of the candidates are about the biggest farce and most impersonal things I've seen. Unless you've been living under a rock it's plainly obvious neither of the candidates has tweeted a single thing.
  • The current election process as a whole seems antiquated. The electoral college is still around in 2012? Come on, surely we should have changed this to a popular vote election by now (just like ALL other elections). This would give states like Oklahoma (100% Red) and say California (100% Blue) the opportunity to feel like they have some participation in the process. When was the last time the GOP or Democrat nominee for President came here to campaign? I can't remember one in my 28 years other than maybe Bill Clinton once.
  • In the end we are all still Americans and I'm pleased to have some very good friends who don't share the same political affiliation I do....