May showers spur Foss release; Bessie-Cordell tornado loss slim

Gerald Green @ 2:58 pm CST Western Oklahoma dodged the bullet again Saturday evening, with only one small tornado touching down as threatening storm clouds passed through the area just about dusk. That one twister, which observers reported bouncing off the ground between Bessie and Cordell, did little or no damage.

Meantime, the area got welcome rain with Charles Touchstone, manager of the Foss Reservoir demineralization plant, reporting the lake's elevation rising to 1,643.33 feet above sea level. He said that's a foot and a third above the 1,642 feet that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers likes to keep the lake below, so water was being released today into the Washita River.

"We're releasing 115 cubic feet per second," Touchstone said this morning. "We'll go up more when they think the river is safe."

Touchstone said the lake level has risen 1.76 feet since the rains started Friday.

"Here at the dam we've gotten 3.66 inches," he said, "but at Hammon they got over seven inches. It's all coming to the lake, so we'll have a little more rise before it settles down."

In Clinton, the rainfall total for the month stood at 2.39 inches before more showers fell this morning. Most of that came Friday when 1.54 inches was measured. Another .15 of an inch fell Saturday and .03 of an inch Sunday.

At noon today, the total from this morning's showers was estimated at about three-tenths of an inch.

But the main concern over the weekend was the storm cell that passed north of Cordell and south of Weatherford late Saturday evening. With no other severe activity in the state, storm chasers were criss-crossing Washita County in droves.

"There were a lot of people out," said Clinton Fire Chief Wade Anders, who watched the wall cloud from the Bessie area and then followed it northeast to near Weatherford. "I didn't realize there were that many out until I ran into a couple from Norman. They said yeh, there's a bunch of us out here."

Anders said the skies looked clear west of Clinton late Saturday so he left two of his men to watch here while he drove south to Bessie. He set up first near the Peace Lutheran Church on U.S. Highway 183; then when Dill City spotters reported seeing circulation, he drove five miles west of Bessie and got behind the main storm cloud.

"According to one of the Bessie units, the tornado was about a half mile south of them," said Anders. "It went east-northeast. Weatherford was out watching, so I ended up following it across and keeping them advised. The rain had it blocked off from them so they couldn't see it."

Anders said he understood a barn belonging to the parents of Clinton Chamber of Commerce executive director Nicole Boyles was damaged six miles west of Corn.

However, Washita County Sheriff Ron Mazurek said today his office received no reports of damage; and Perry Regier, clerk-treasurer for the town of Corn, said he'd heard of none and that his brother lives five miles west of Corn. Mrs. Boyles was attending an aunt's funeral today, so neither she nor members of her family could be contacted.

"That cloud ended up going a little south of Weatherford," said Anders. "It definitely had some small rotation in it."

Mazurek agreed.

"Troopers (from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol) and some of our deputies said it touched down four miles north of Cordell," he said.

Asked if the location were along U.S. 183, he said it was west of the highway.

"It was bouncing up and down," he said. "It wasn't too strong and only came down for a little. It didn't have enough turbulence to stay down very long."

Mazurek said the tornado later was reported down again a little northeast of Corn but again no damage was reported.

Storm sirens were sounded in Weatherford at one point, encouraging people to seek shelter.

Anders said the Clinton Fire Department received several calls Saturday evening from concerned citizens here, and he assured that his men were keeping a close eye on the storm even though the town itself was never threatened. He said some people also called Sunday evening but the only weather phenomenon that day was some low-hanging clouds without circulation.

Many people watched the progress of Saturday's storm on television, as Oklahoma City TV stations had spotters both in automobiles and helicopters tracking it across Washita County.