HOUSTON, Texas – A storm chaser from Houston is shaken after getting too close to the tornado that killed 18 people, including three of his colleagues.
Hank Scyhma chronicles storms that cause most people to run for shelter and fear for their loved ones.
The storm in El Reno, Okla. was no different as shown in his frightening footage on Friday.
“That’s a massive tornado right there,” Schyma said.
The streets were filled with people trying to evacuate and take their own pictures. Schyma crossed paths with a frantic grandmother pleading for help as she ran down the street searching for a phone to contact her husband.
Friday morning started with the Storm Center issuing a loaded gun warning to the Oklahoma City area. With 10 years of experience under his belt, Schyma sensed that something bad was going to happen.
“Alright this thing is making a right turn. Yeah, this is not good,” Schyma said.
While many of his fellow chasers kept going east, he made a prompt decision to u-turn and head west. His quick-thinking saved his life.
“As soon as I got past it and got into safety, I looked at maps and realized they would be forced to take a southern turn right into the Canadian River where all the roads end,” Schyma said.
Storm chaser Austin Anderson was not so lucky.
“The tornado hit us, lifted us 30-40 feet in the air and we started tumbling in midair,” Anderson said.
Schyma said the storm made him do something he has never done before.
“I called my mom. You're going to hear that some people died - that storm chasers died. I’m not one of them,” Schyma said.
In the end, more than a dozen people were killed, including three veteran storm chasers: Tim Samara, his son Paul, and researcher Carl Young.
The field data captured by storm casers is critical and cannot be learned from radars or satellites. Schyma said he is ready to go back out again.