A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part III

PART III

 

A plaque commemorating the first successful tornado forecast sits in front of a WWII-era B-29 bomber at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

A plaque commemorating the first successful tornado forecast sits in front of a WWII-era B-29 bomber at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

After General Borum’s statement that Captain Miller and Major Fawbush were “about to set a precedent,” Fawbush composed the forecast–what would now be called a tornado warning (albeit one with a long lead-time)–Miller typed it up and handed it off to Base Operations for dissemination.

Both men sensed their careers circling the drain.  Miller wondered how he’d manage as a civilian.  It seemed unlikely anyone would want to employ an idiot who’d issued a tornado forecast for a precise location.  Maybe, if he were lucky, he mused, he might catch on as an elevator operator someplace.

A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part II

 PART II

 

 

Major Ernest J. Fawbush (left) and Captain Robert C. Miller examining weather data ca. 1948.  Data those days came in via "high speed" (probably about 60 wpm) teletype.

Major Ernest J. Fawbush (left) and Captain Robert C. Miller examining weather data ca. 1948. Data those days came in via “high speed” (probably about 60 wpm) teletype.

On the morning of March 25, 1948, based on their hurried research, Captain Miller and Major Fawbush noted a significant similarity between the weather charts for that day and March 20, the date of the Tinker tornado.  The two forecasters prepared a hand-drawn prognostic chart (computerized progs were still far in the future in 1948) and reached the “unsettling conclusion that central Oklahoma would be in a primary tornado threat area by late afternoon and early evening.”

A ONE IN TWENTY-MILLION CHANCE–The True Story of the First Tornado Forecast–Part I

The aftermath of the March 20, 1948, tornado at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

The aftermath of the March 20, 1948, tornado at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

In the mid-20th century, tornado forecasting was considered to be beyond the “state of the art,” or in other words, impossible.  Twisters were deemed acts of God.  And any meteorologist attempting to predict what the Almighty had in mind would have been labeled a fool, a charlatan, or a court jester.  Maybe worse.

Yet two young air force weather officers found themselves, through no intent of their own, thrust into the unenviable position of having to make a tornado-no tornado forecast for Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, on a stormy March day 66 years ago.

GABI MEDEIROS, FBI AGENT, AD HOC STORM CHASER (character in Supercell)

Gabi Medeiros is a Special Agent with the FBI. Born of a Russian mother and Portuguese father, she’s attractive but not classically beautiful. As she once explained, “I gotta watch what I eat, or I get a little heavy in the ass and start looking like a female Michelin Man.”

Divorced and the veteran of several dead-end affairs, she’s come to the realization there’s a scarcity of men who want to settle down with a woman who “shoots guns, curses in Russian and can’t cook worth a damn.”

HUNTING UNICORNS

Yesterday, Silver Lining Tours and I might as well have been hunting unicorns as tornadoes. Tornadoes? We didn’t even see a towering cumulus! For awhile, we thought we might have chance at a big storm far to our west just north of the Kansas border in Nebraska, but, like legislation in the U.S. Congress, it went nowhere. So, we ran up the white flag and boogied for Salina, Kansas, where we caught up on our sleep.

We saw a lot of these yesterday…

But none of these…

YELLOW BRICK ROADKILL?

Friday I leave for Oklahoma City where my week-long quest for the wily, or sometimes not so wily, tornado will begin.

My wife is absolutely convinced I’m a dead man walking; certain I’ll get swept up like Dorothy and end up as road kill on the Yellow Brick Freeway.

More likely, if conditions ripe for twisters go into hibernation, I’ll die of boredom.

But no matter. My primary goal, believe it or not, is not to get up close and personal with a Great Plains’ monster—-though I’m not averse to that—-but to learn how tornado chasers operate. To see what their daily routine is, what meteorological parameters they examine, what monitoring equipment they employ, and how they communicate with each other during a pursuit.