Ahead Of The Storm: 30th Anniversary Of Oologah Tornado Pathfinder

Tuesday, March 23rd 2021, 3:19 pm

OOLOGAH, Oklahoma -

Keeping you safe has been part of News On 6’s mission for more than 70 years.

And that was never clearer than on April 26, 1991 when a powerful tornado cut through Oologah.

News On 6 had just launched new technology that gave everyone in the storm’s path a 43-minute warning.

As the storm’s 30th anniversary approaches, the disaster is remembered not for the lives lost, but for the lives saved.

Seconds count during severe weather and can be lifesaving when a tornado is on the ground.

An early warning can mean the difference between live and death.

30 years ago, News On 6 introduced Pathfinder which was a groundbreaking tool that helped the weather team pinpoint the time a storm would hit a specific area.

This technology was developed by some of Oklahoma’s own made its debut on News On 6 at a crucial moment.

David Oldham created Pathfinder.

“It was running only the day before the Oologah tornado outbreak,” Oldham said.

The Oologah storm produced an F-4 tornado and destroyed more than 60 homes. It caused $12 million in damage to the Oologah-Talala school buildings. Although the damage was extensive, no lives were lost.

And is, in part, because of Pathfinder and David Oldham, its creator.

“Pathfinder was working like a charm that night. It was just incredible—the amount of warning we were able to give people,” Oldham reflected. “After the fact—going out into the field and hearing people say “’Jim Giles and Pathfinder saved my life”’ [was] an incredible experience.”

Almost three decades after the storms of April 26, 1991, Oklahomans still count on technology such as Pathfinder to stay ahead of the storm.

“It’s something Oklahomans deal with every spring, but they can have a little more certainty,” Oldham stated.