"H" is For a Hell of a Good Story

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Watching the tornado coverage yesterday, brought me back to my first full time job in TV News.

I was a News Photographer at KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

I covered more than my share of tornados and every time it was amazing to see just how powerful those twisters can be.

Of all the different video I shot over the years, there is still one shot I can remember to this day.

A tornado had touched down in Broken Arrow, OK. and Reporter Gene Young and I were sent out to cover the aftermath the next morning.

A number of houses and business were wiped out (nothing compared to what happened in Moore Yesterday) and we were driving to find the worst damage.


On our way to the scene we passed a business that had one roadside signs with the plastic letters (see the picture to the right). The sign said " ELP WANTED". The "H" was missing from the sign.

I pointed it out by saying something like "Hey Gene they are looking for ELP." We continued the drive to the damaged area.

As we got to the scene of the worst damage, Gene starting looking for people to talk to while I was shooting the "B" roll of the area.

Some houses were badly damaged and a few cars were flipped over, but as far as Oklahoma tornados go, there was nothing really spectacular.

As I was shooting video in the backyard of one family's home when I looked up.

At the top of the 2 story house, near the roof I saw something that caught my eye.

The plastic letter "H' was embedded into the side of the house about 20 feet up from the ground.

We were over 6 miles from the " ELP WANTED" sign and I found the "H" stuck in some family's home.

I shot the video and then on our way back to the station, we stopped by the " ELP WANTED" sign and shot video of that.

Gene wrote the story that started out like this, "The Tornado that ripped through Broken Arrow last night was so powerful that it blew the "H" off this "Help Wanted" sign."

As our News Director was watching our story in his office air on the newscast, he was starting to get pissed. There were houses that we leveled by the tornado and here we were showing a plastic letter blown off a sign as the lead shot in the story. 

You could tell the ND was about to blow his top, when they story got to the next line.

"We found the "H".... over 6 miles away embedded into the side of this house."

We watched the the News Director yelled out "That is some great shit!"

It was a way to start the story and show the power of the tornado without starting with the oblatory shots of damaged homes.

Almost 30 years later I still remember that one shot.

I can also say that after covering countless hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards there is nothing worse than a tornado. That hit so fast, with so much power, it's frightening what they can do in the matter of a few minutes.

My heart goes out to the people in Moore and to the news people that are covering the story.

My God bless you all.