Eyewitness to the tornado: Storm spotter with local ties talks about Oklahoma


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

PADUCAH, Ky. - When Al Mason was trained in Paducah to spot severe weather, he never thought he would end up seeing an EF-5 tornado with his own eyes.

Mason was near Oklahoma City because he's thinking about relocating there. When he heard about the severe weather threat, he decided to head out and see if he could find anything. He ended up at a gas station in Newcastle, Oklahoma and actually saw the tornado touch down.

"It first made contact with the ground, it looked tiny and it looked like it would be on the ground maybe 30 seconds and pick back up," he said. But that didn't happen.

"It quadrupled in size as I was watching it," he said. "It was just a growing feeling of horror among all the people standing there. As I saw the tornado head off that direction, I knew someone was going to get hit really bad."

He learned later that it was the community of Moore that ended up in the tornado's way.
His hotel was about a mile south of what would become known as the storm's path. He was far enough away to feel safe, but close enough to witness the aftermath. 

"I don't know how else to describe it.  There was just a smell of death in the air," he said. He added that storm survivors make their way to his hotel seeking shelter. He talked with many of them about what they lived through and what they lost.

He said he knows it will never compare with the horrors that they lived through, but Mason said what he saw affected him, too.

"What I saw come down went on to kill people and kill kids," he said. "It's really difficult for me."

And now deciding if he wants to move into the area for good has become a difficult decision.