The Technology That Saved Lives In Oologah’s Powerful 1991 Tornado

When Oklahoma weather turns bad, early warning can mean the difference between life and death.

In just a few days, the people of Oologah will celebrate the 30th anniversary of an F4 tornado that caused millions of dollars in damage. This weather event is remembered not for the lives lost, but for the lives saved.

Your safety has been part of News On 6’s mission for more than 70 years. And that has never been clearer than on April 26, 1991, when a powerful tornado pierced Oologah.

News On 6 had just launched a new technology that gave a 43-minute warning to everyone on the path of the storm.

This vital tool made its debut in News On 6 just in time – just a day before the Oologah tornado erupted, and would be tested on a massive scale.

David Oldham created Pathfinder.

“We used to track storms at the weather bureau with a grease pen and a highway map,” said Oldham. “My thought was, ‘Well why can’t we try something where we can point at the radar and then extrapolate the storm’s position in the future and see which cities are affected by it.'”

The storm caused an F-4 tornado and destroyed more than 60 homes. Oologah-Talala school buildings were damaged by $ 12 million. Although the damage was great, no people were killed.

It’s in part due to Pathfinder and Oldham.

“Pathfinder worked like a charm that night. It was just amazing how many warnings we could give people, ”said Oldham. “After I went out into the field and heard people say, ‘Jim Giles and Pathfinder saved my life’ [was] an amazing experience. “

Related story: Before the storm: 30th anniversary of the Oologah Tornado Pathfinder

Almost three decades after the April 26, 1991 storms, Oklahomans are still relying on technology like Pathfinder to stay one step ahead of the storm.

“It’s something Oklahomans grapple with every spring, but they can be a little more secure,” Oldham explained. “It still makes me proud that I came up with the idea, developed it and implemented it.”