When severe weather outbreaks occur, the community that is hit hardest often gets the most recognition for years to come.  It makes sense.  After all, the tragedy, loss and suffering impacts everyone in a bigger way.  It takes more time to rebuild.  It’s never forgotten.  May 3, 1999 is synonymous with Moore, Oklahoma.

The day started out much like any other day in May.  There was a slight risk of severe thunderstorms.  Par for the course in the Plains.  But by late afternoon, the perfect set of ingredients caused the Storm Prediction Center to throttle to a “High Risk” for much of Central Kansas and Central Oklahoma.  Because I had just finished my mid-day show on KZSN-FM in Wichita, this would allow time to chase any storms that might form.

While the Oklahoma City metro area was pounded by a massive killer tornado, we were all listening to the reports of what was happening.   It wouldn’t be long before southern Kansas would see some action as well. By 7:15 p.m. that evening, a tornado touched down 4 miles north of Wellington, Kansas and headed north for about 24 miles. The twister did some of its worst damage after sundown.

This tornado image was captured just before sunset as it headed for Haysville, Kansas. (Courtesy of National Weather Service and Perry Lambert on May 3, 1999).

Some storm chasers don’t mind chasing at night.  It was this time, this day that made me never want to do it again.  Quite possibly, it was the lack of technology.  A weather radio, a Rand McNally Road Map and a 4-channel crystal scanner do not show you exactly where a tornado is.  With no mobile Internet device in those days, I drove right into danger.  As the tornado headed into Haysville, Kansas, I can recall someone on the scanner radio yelling, “the Dairy Queen just blew across the road. We are being hit!”  Not long after that, tree branches and debris flew over the top of my car in south Wichita where some significant damage would occur.  I was lucky.  I got out of there alive.

May 3, 1999 Radar Image

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado caused F4 damage in Haysville and southern Wichita. 150 homes and 27 businesses were damaged.   6 people were killed.

Searching on You Tube for the May 3, 1999 Tornado will undoubtedly take you to endless videos from Moore, Oklahoma.  And on this anniversary of that severe weather outbreak, our hearts and minds still ache for those who lost everything they had across the heart of the Sooner state.

Just north of the state line, dozens were injured, there was significant damage and 6 families lost loved ones. Remember Moore.  But don’t forget about Haysville.

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