A Scarborough stormchaser found himself just minutes away from one of the most destructive tornadoes to hit America in living memory.
Nathan Edwards, of Stepney, was in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday. He made it to a junction half a mile south of the town just 10 minutes before the tornado passed by.
The 31-year-old told The Scarborough News: “The roar from the tornado sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard before.”
Nathan, who works in the IT department at Scarborough Council, was just three days into one of his annual stormchasing trips to the US. He explained that after driving to see another storm further south, they had headed back up to Moore.
Nathan said the storm had gained very quickly in strength and that they were concerned about the path, given that a member of their stormchasing team had family in the area. He said: “We stayed and filmed for a while, but the storm seemed to be moving due east towards both us and the house our fellow chaser lived in.
“We ended up driving east to pick up his wife and then drive to safety. At this time small bits of debris were raining down on the estate where they lived and the roar from the tornado sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
“We made it a safe distance south and watched the tornado pass just north of their house and off east into the distance. Even over a mile and a half north of us, lots of bits of roofing insulation and personal items, such as photos and paperwork, were falling around us.”
He continued: “The roads were pretty much gridlocked with people who had fled the path trying to get back home and lots of emergency services moving in.
“We ended up leaving the city rather than get in everyone’s way and returned later to drop everyone back home.
“A quick walk around the estate resulted in finding lots of family photos amongst other debris which was quite sobering.”
Nathan said that he and his fellow chasers had taken time after the storm to gather their thoughts.
However, they were due to be out again today, as more storms were expected – but in a more sparsely populated area. Nathan tried to get as much photographic and video footage as possible, but said that he and his fellow chasers were mainly in “self preservation mode”.
Since Monday, rescue workers have been searching the ruins left by the 200 mph tornado, which killed 24 people including nine children.
The National Weather Service upgraded the tornado to EF-5, the most powerful type on the Fujita scale. It used the word “incredible” to describe the force of the storm.
Nathan has been studying weather systems for a number of years and became so knowledgeable that he started forecasting storms online.
He made his first stormchasing trip in 2007 and since then he has found himself dodging tornadoes, lightning strikes and hailstones the size of tennis balls.
Nathan says that seeing such destruction can leave him feeling torn about his hobby, but said stormchasers can play a part in helping keep people safe by helping the emergency services identify where a storm will hit.