Wednesday, April 24, 2013

20 years ago: April 24, 1993 East Tulsa/Catoosa tornado

April 24, 1993: F4 Tornado vs truck along Interstate 44 just east of Tulsa, Okla. The picture is from the KJRH 2NEWS archives.

One of the largest tornadoes in local history struck East Tulsa and Catoosa on this date 20 years ago. The April 24, 1993 tornado killed 7 people, and it remains the deadliest single tornado in the Tulsa area.

The pictures below are rare dashcam images taken from nearly inside the tornado. A Catoosa policer officer shot the video as he nearly drove into the huge twister. I've posted a few "screen grabs" from the video.

The tornado first formed in East Tulsa as a huge storm quickly exploded over town. Businesses, churches and homes near Memorial Drive and Garnett suffered damage as the tornado developed.

The tornado quickly intensified into a nearly mile wide, rain-wrapped F4. 7 people died at and near Bruce's Truck Stop when the tornado crossed I-44 and moved into Catoosa.

Huge hail also accompanied the storm.

Catoosa police dash cam video. Looking west at the tornado. View from 193rd and I-44 (near present day Hard Rock Casino). Due to its size and the rain, many folks didn't recognize this as a tornado.

Not realizing the dark cloud was a tornado, the officer drives toward it. He quickly turns around. Inflow wind of 80-100mph blows debris across I-44.

The officer rides out the "edge" of the tornado in his patrol car. A large advertising sign blows across the road. The dark cloud on the left is the tornado. Baseball-size hail zooms from west to east past his car.

The officer travels east along I-44 after the tornado passes. That's a large metal overhead highway sign support ripped apart by the tornado. Good thing he stopped!

Aerial view. Bruce's Truck Stop was in the direct path of the tornado. The policeman (on right side) missed the strongest wind.

Radar image of the "hook echo" from the tornado. Image is from the NWS Doppler radar located near Inola. This radar serves the Tulsa area. The tornado was put into service only one day before!
Large tornadoes are easy to see in the "Doppler" mode. The term Doppler refers to detecting wind velocity. 


  1. Hello am looking for more information about this tornado my uncle died in that tordano april 24 in tulsa ok hes name its andres rodriguez my dad was driving with him from chicago to mexico i dont if u have any interview or more information newspaper With him my dads name its genaro rodriguez they were part of a band called "los pasos del norte" i will aprreciate ur help my its thank you hope i can have something thank u again

  2. my dad worked at cummins. it was directly hit by the tornado. he survived though. im sorry for your loss...

  3. That first radar image is from StormTracker 2 Doppler radar...the same dish you still use as one half of Double Doppler 2! I vividly remember Gary Shore showing that live.

  4. "The tornado was put into service only one day before!" - I guess we should have canceled that order...

    George, I found this post through google while searching for a tornado I saw when I was about 14. I am convinced I watched this tornado form just a few feet directly over my head in my backyard that afternoon.

    From a NYT article online I found, "Tornado sirens in Tulsa started going off at 6:45 P.M. The tornado hit a few minutes later. After destroying the Memorial United Methodist Church in Tulsa and downing power lines downtownsa, the tornado lifted up and touched down again five miles to the east, where it moved along the interstate for two miles before hitting downtown Catoosa, the National Weather Service said." - I lived about 500 yards northeast of that church growing up so assume that what I saw was the formation of the same tornado that wreaked havoc later to the northeast. My own memories of that afternoon were of the preceding eerie yellowgreen hue of everything outdoors, the odor of the air, etc. It seems like sirens had gone off once earlier, but I don't remember now. I stepped out the side door of my house with my family to look at the storm again as I had been doing every so often. This time there was a small, rotating area in the clouds straight above us moving slowly eastward (which in itself seems a little odd as these usually seem to move west). The rotation was getting visibly stronger in the few seconds we watched, from what seemed like usual swirling to remarkable form - suddenly everything changed. The meandering breezes turned into a single direction (updraft I guess) and objects in the yard started to behave oddly, an empty bottle even rose up off the ground. It was not too windy, just that breeze - and the odd feeling of it. Maybe 5 to 10 seconds later, an intense wind suddenly manifested and we all immediately climbed over each other to get back into the house. I literally could not shut the door because of the wind or vacuum or whatever it's called, my stepdad had to grab it from me - I dont know how he pulled it shut but we all ran to the bathroom at that point. We heard sirens shortly after - a few minutes later we went back outside and saw roof shingles all over our yard - but they weren't ours. Turned out that two houses down had uprooted trees, the arbys 4 houses down lost its roof, and the aforementioned church was basically half destroyed. Luckily we didnt suffer any damage I know of - I never saw the classic funnel shape, but I am quite sure I looked directly up into the eye of it from directly below during its birth. I didnt know until googling tonight that this was the same tornado apparently that went on to do much worse a little farther later on, tragically.

  5. "moving slowly eastward (which in itself seems a little odd as these usually seem to move west)" - meant to say it was moving westward, which seemed odd! Just looked up Tulsa world articles from that day that suggest the tornado began around 11th & harvard, then skipped around, moving east. I don't know how to reconcile that exactly with what I saw but am be interested to know itd path a little better

    1. The majority of all weather moves in an easterly direction. When you see it moving west like that, it's usually going to cause some damage.
      This was the storm that made me notice that distinction.

  6. I have original photographs if anyone is looking for them