Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tour de Meers 2014: Bison and bicycles

"... do not ride into herds of bison and longhorns that can charge you..." -- Tour de Meers disclaimer. 

^ uhm, ok. I gotta try this! :)

Tour de Meers is a non-competitive benefit bicycle ride held during the Memorial Day weekend in southwestern Oklahoma. 

This event is an annual fundraiser for the community of Meers VFD, and this year's ride was the 25th anniversary since debuting in 1989.

You can choose from five routes ranging from 10 to 62 miles. All distances begin and end at the fire department.

Phil Parks and I cycled the 57 miler route... it's gorgeous! This distance offers three distinct sections:

1) mountains and wildlife refuge,
2) flat lands,

3) wind farm and rocks.

Most of the climbing and all the steepest climbs (which aren't very steep) occur in the first third of the course.

This was one of the most unique rides I've done for several reasons: 

- You cycle thru a wildlife refuge.

- You cycle over 4 cattle guards.

- The peaks of the Wichita Mountains provide unique scenery.

- You rest stop in Cooperton, OK which is a ghost town. 

- A wind farm offers an atypical backdrop.

- Zero to little auto traffic.

The weather was perfect for cycling! Cloudy, light wind and temperatures in the upper 60s at start time. Some light rain barely developed about an hour into the ride, and it felt refreshing! Cool water on your face :) 

The mass start was unusual: the two longest rides begin heading south while the shortest routes head north. This looks strange as the cyclists in the middle are pointed in opposite directions. Once this minor confusion ends, everything seems normal.

On the 57 and 62, I really like how you immediately get into the heart of the ride.

An immediate downhill in the first quarter mile accelerates you to 30mph. You zoom and twist downhill into "downtown" Meers. You cycle past the
famous Meers Store.

Moderate climbing begins after that with mountain tops lining the right side of the road. You feel like you're on a volcanic Hawaiian Island when you look straight up at the peaks-- it's that pretty.

The first third of the ride is the most interesting with the mountains, rock formations, trees and wildlife preserve.

Several dozen longhorn stare you down in the preserve. They could charge you if so inclined, but they didn't seem to care. 

One of the coolest things was watching bison in full gallop! No one was threatened by them.

The second section of the route turns north then east out of the preserve and into the flatlands.

 The wind was light on this day. Wind would be an issue on most other days. Very few cars could be found. We zoomed along near 20mph heading north.

The scenery becomes more colorful and rocky again during the last third of the ride. You also cut thru a wind farm while bicycling past the occasional farm and ranch.

Counting our long stops (which is part of the fun!), it took Phil Parks and me about four hours to complete 57 miles. Our final moving average was 17 mph. 

After the ride, Phil and me along with a few other cyclists gobbled up Meersburgers and onion rings at the Meers Store-- well worth the 30 minute wait!


- There are many volunteers at the Meers VFD and along the course. 

- Parking is actually organized! Parking attendants point you to specific spots in a grassy lot next to the fire department. 

- If you ride this event, I recommend the 57 mile route as it's the prettiest. (The 62 mile route steers you along a straight highway after mile 40, while the 57 cuts thru the wind farm with rock formations and rollers.) Thanks Cary McKaughan for the tip!

 - I do NOT recommend the 36 mile or shorter routes as you completely bypass the wildlife preserve and best scenery.

 - I saw several dozen longhorns and two to three bison in the preserve. One of the bison was in full gallop, and he crossed the road 100 yards away! None of the livestock seemed threatened by our bright colored cycling jerseys... probably not a good idea to look like a matador... 

- Volunteers are stationed near the cattle guards to warn you. Small wooden bridges overlay the cattle guards if you choose. 

- Very few cars are on the course as you ride thru the wildlife preserve and sparsely traveled state highways. There is no trash. You are passed by one car every 5 minutes.

- First event in which I didn't see anyone get a flat! No bad gravel, no broken glass on the road.

- You don't actually climb any mountains, you pass along the bottom of them. 

- Optional... If you choose (which some do!) you can climb Mt. Scott on your bike after you complete the ride. It's about a 1,000 foot ascent along a 3 mile trek circling up the mountain. It's not considered a part of Tour de Meers... you are on your own. 

- Meers is in the country. There are no places to stop and get last minute cycling stuff. 

- It took exactly 3 hours to drive to Meers from Tulsa. 


- Tour de Meers. Annual bicycle ride, last Saturday in May. 

- Mass start: departs 7:30am.

- Location: about 30 min NW of Lawton (the nearest "big" town) .

- Entry: only $25! 

- On site/late registration available.

- You are guaranteed an event t-shirt if you pre-register. 

- Routes: from 10 miles to 62 miles.

- Best route: 57 miles.

- Difficulty: easy to moderate. 

- Course type: rolling hills.

- Course markings: paint and occasional road signs.

- Car traffic: little to none!

- Roads: mostly smooth asphalt.

- Biggest climb: nothing stood out. A few long, mildly slow climbs. Steepest is about 4-6% grade. 

- Total climbing/ascent: 1100 feet on the 57 miler.

- Rest stops: about every 10 miles after mile 18. 

- Timing/chipping: no.

- Offered at rest stops: water, gatorade, crackers, cookies, bananas, orange juice, pickle juice, and popsicles! 

- Bathrooms: one or two porta-johns per rest stop.

A huge bonus on this day was the weather: temperature was only 79 degrees by the end of the ride. Cloudy skies blocked out the heat, and the wind was fairly light by Oklahoma standards.

What could have been better? Nothing! I'll be back next year. :) George

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. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Night Twister: Sallisaw tornado, March 30, 2013

Power lines exploding and flashing near Sallisaw from a night time twister. The pics below are the tornado's 1 minute
life cycle.  

Tornadoes at night are the most dangerous, and this 175 yard wide tornado seen here is a perfect example.

Channel 2 and other media received an email and video from a Norman resident- I won't identify him here as he requests. While visiting family in far eastern Oklahoma, he recorded this twister which touched down 2-3 miles outside of downtown Sallisaw.

The tornado was later rated EF-1 by the Tulsa NWS as wind neared 100-110 mph. This small tornado formed then disappeared quickly.

Tornadoes at night like this one are most difficult for meteorologists and storm chasers: the twister lived on the ground briefly, lasting for one minute (a radar sweep can take 5 minutes). Also, the tornado was only visible by lightning and electricity flashes near the ground.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The snow forecast for February 25-26, 2013

[ DISCLAIMER: the purpose of me writing this comes from my heart as I love my job. I'm hoping you find this info educational and informative. :)  ]

7-year old Ryan found enough snow for a snowman! This pic was taken in Bartlesville where 4" of snow was reported. Only 1-2" was left by sunrise.

I was really, really surprised when I heard so many jokes and criticism about the weather forecast-- (I'll make jokes too about forecasters! ) But I honestly thought Channel 2 did really well forecasting the February 25-26, 2013 snow event.

A few thoughts on the snow:
- Most folks slept during the snow. Snow was officially observed in Tulsa for 7 hours from 10pm to 5am. The snow was heavy at times, but it melted away by sunrise.

- I forecast snow totals of 1-4" thinking 1" totals if the snow melts quickly and the 4" if the temperature dropped a couple of degrees.

- A few viewers in Broken Arrow reported about 2" of snow before it melted by sunrise.

- I tried explaining to our viewers that snow has difficulty accumulating if the ground is wet from previous rain. The snow began melting on contact.

- I also showed a graphic of forecast rainfall, and I explained this included melting snow.

- The snow forecast for the OKC area was a bust.

- Tulsa county was only under a Winter Weather Advisory for light snow and slush accumulations.

- The Bartlesville area was placed under a Blizzard Warnings (this surprised me, and this was likely a cautionary reaction due to the monster snow and blizzard in western Oklahoma). While the visibility in Bartlesville reduced to 0.75 miles and 30+ mph wind gusts were observed, the blizzard didn't meet the full definition. 

Many folks, myself included, were hoping that the snow around Tulsa would stick longer-- my snow sled I bought two years ago remains wrapped up in plastic!

Below are graphics broadcast on KJRH, and pictures of what actually happened. Thanks for reading. George

I showed this graphic on the Monday morning news, and updated it on the 11am Midday news. Snow was officially reported in Tulsa from 10pm to 5am. As expected the heavy snow avoided Tulsa.

I showed this on TV.  Despite the seven hours of snow in Tulsa, the warm and wet ground melted it quickly. 2" was reported around Grand Lake. 2-3" was measured in the Stillwater area,  7"in Ponca City and 19" in Alva. OKC missed the heavy snow.

Actual snowfall totals.
I showed this graphic explaining the melting snow and beneficial rain totals would result.  
The actual rainfall totals.

My commute to work Tuesday at 12:30am. Notice the snow accumulating in the grass-- it melted by sunrise.

KJRH viewer Debbie Cunningham's yard turned white along Osage/Washington county line. As expected, most of the snow stayed W, NW and N of Tulsa.