Ryan Snoddon, a CBC meteorologist who happened to be in Oklahoma Monday when a powerful tornado ripped through the suburban city of Moore, says he could not believe his eyes when he saw the aftermath.
"It was a life-changing experience for me, for sure," said Snoddon, who arrived on the scene Monday evening where dozens of people were killed or left missing.
"I tell you man, I have never seen damage like that. It was unbelievable," Snoddon told CBC News Tuesday. "The power of that storm was incredible. It was a worst-case scenario. It really was a worst case scenario."
Snoddon, who covers Newfoundland and Labrador weather from St. John's, had been on personal leave so he could join a team that was chasing tornados in Oklahoma, South Dakota and elsewhere.
They had been pursuing a significantly less serious tornado on Monday [see the video below for Snoddon's footage] when they became aware of the tornado that would develop into an EF4 twister, the second-most serious of its kind.
"It seemed like every time the radar scan came through it was worse and worse and worse," said Snoddon.
"When you can actually see the debris cloud being picked up by the radar, like we could yesterday, we knew it was going to be bad. We were praying that it wasn't going to be as bad as it looked on the radar."
'It was the worst of this tornado'
Snoddon and his colleagues decided to stop their work and head toward the damage, stopping for water that they could carry in for survivors. They drove as far as they could go, and then walked toward the most damaged areas. Snoddon said what they saw was unforgettable.
"As you walk in (from) the outer periphery, you can see trees missing leaves, some shingles off a roof. (But) as you get deeper, the next thing you know there's power lines down across the road and hydro poles, six or seven in a row snapped off, and then there's a house that's missing a roof," he said.
"Once we got into ground zero, so to speak, it was the worst of this tornado," he said. "Hydro poles completely, cleanly snapped halfway through, which I assume would be from other debris hitting the hydro pole and snapping it in two. Cars just completely picked up (and) tossed and put down somewhere else."
While Snoddon had been working with stormchasers, he said it's important to note those researchers are less thrill-seekers and more likely to provide help and advance warnings.
"People typically think you're out there for the video — and you are, to get video and gain knowledge (on) how these storms form and the havoc they wreak," he said.
"But stormchasers, as soon as we see a funnel cloud, we're on the phone calling [emergency personnel] so that towns in its path can get the tornado sirens warning."
As well, Snoddon said there was no question on his team of what their priorities were when they saw the tornado hitting.
"It's kind of a stormchaser code [that]
when you're first on the scene of something like that, you leave the storm immediately. You stop, and you go to disaster relief," he said.
"You start searching for people, you start recovering right away and doing what you can ... When you're right there, there's no debate."