It was Father’s Day weekend 2023.
A weekend that was supposed to be a time for enjoying fun, relaxation, and delicious food with family members and friends.
But Mother Nature had other plans for Tulsa, Okla., and surrounding areas that weekend.
Taking Aim at Tulsa
On Saturday, June 17, residents around the Greater Tulsa, or “Green Country” area, went about their day at home, in parks, on nearby lakes, camping, grilling out, and just visiting with family and friends.
Temperatures warmed to the low 90s under mostly sunny skies, but the heat and humidity of that day were feeding an atmospheric disturbance building out west across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
Oklahomans are certainly no strangers to severe weather outbreaks. After all, the Sooner State is generally known as the heart of Tornado Alley. In fact, thunderstorms occur about 55 days per year in eastern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
So in the days leading up to Father’s Day weekend 2023, residents were not overly surprised when news stations and weather experts started forecasting the potential for storms, especially during Saturday’s overnight hours.
As darkness settled in on Saturday evening, temperatures dropped, and the wind picked up – telltale signs that storms were brewing. Weather forecasters put out urgent messages about thunderstorm warnings blanketing the Northeastern Oklahoma region, reporting that all modes of weather were possible: damaging winds, large hail, isolated tornadoes, and localized flooding.
Angry, jagged clouds churned and rotated across the state against a backdrop of ominous shades of green, grey, and black, setting the stage for a rough night of severe weather.
Boasting a deep, rotating updraft called a mesocyclone, the supercell storm gained intensity as it marched eastward across Oklahoma.
Around 10 pm, the storm blew through Oklahoma City, and by midnight, tornado sirens were sounding in Tulsa.
By that time, the storm had grown significantly and was packing hurricane-force wind gusts of more than 100 miles per hour. Dangerous lightning streaked across the sky, thunder rolled, and transformers blew in every direction, casting momentary eerie green glows against Tulsa’s turbulent night sky.
Residents hunkered in hallways, closets, and bathrooms in their homes as sheets of heavy rain fell and a wall of wind hit the Tulsa metro. But many slept, unaware of how bad the storm truly was.
The storm moved quickly, but it left behind a trail of destruction during those overnight hours of Father’s Day, June 18.
Assessing the Aftermath
Emergency crews rallied throughout the night to assess damage and begin clearing roads. The devastation, which would not be clearly visible until daylight, was profound … even in the darkness.
Tulsa had been hard-hit by what weather experts explained was an especially powerful “derecho” – defined as a long-lasting squall line of severe storms that produce winds of greater than 58 mph along a path longer than 240 miles.
The intense straight-line winds that tore across the Tulsa metro uprooted massive trees, snapped branches and trunks, damaged cars, ripped off roofs, and shattered doors and windows at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Business signs were blown down as were light poles and traffic lights, and debris of all shapes and sizes was strewn in a twisted mess across streets, yards, homes, businesses, parking lots, and more.
Unfortunately, the Father’s Day storm also struck a massive blow to the region’s power grid, knocking out power to thousands of residents, businesses, medical facilities, and more.
At the height of the power outage, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), the state’s second largest electric utility provider, reported that more than 200,000 customers were without power, the vast majority of which were in the Tulsa metro.
The tornadic-level damage had snapped hundreds of utility poles and cross-arms and left downed power lines across the metro.
After damage surveys that Sunday, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists said that three tornadoes had helped fuel the destructive storm.
State leaders eventually signed a State of Emergency declaration for 10 counties in northeastern Oklahoma.
No Power, No Fuel
As the power outage stretched from hours into days, the possibility of fuel shortages loomed. Gasoline and diesel were in short supply as fuel stations were overrun with drivers seeking fuel. Long lines stacked up at sites that had fuel while many other convenience stores and gas stations had no power and no fuel.
The fuel situation across the Tulsa metro literally changed by the minute because the weekend storm had disrupted power to three of Tulsa’s main fuel terminals, including facilities owned by Magellan Midstream Partners and Holly Refinery, and fuel was not coming in as fast as it was going out.
Tulsa-based Magellan transports, stores, and distributes refined petroleum products and crude oil while Holly Refinery operates a crude oil refinery in Tulsa where it produces gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other products from primarily sweet crude oil.
Immediately after the storm, phones started ringing at Fuel Logic’s Dallas-based office. And they continued to ring around the clock for days to come.
“Our call volume doubled,” said Brandon Ward, fuel consultant (logistics manager?) at Fuel Logic.
Because Fuel Logic teams answer calls 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, they were more than ready to assist existing and new customers calling from the Tulsa area.
With extensive experience helping during natural disasters all over the United States, Fuel Logic mobilized its vast network of fuel providers to secure fuel for a wide variety of customers in the Tulsa area.
Ward shared how Fuel Logic’s logistics coordinators devised solutions to schedule fuel deliveries of 700 gallons twice a day for one call center client, set up multiple large fuel deliveries for a data center, and provided critical fuel support for vital infrastructure including cell phone towers.
With Tulsa’s main fuel terminals out of commission due to the power outage, Fuel Logic’s ability to deliver fuel into the city played a pivotal role in helping businesses maintain operations until the power grid could be restored.
With its variety of fuel truck sizes and proactive business philosophy, Fuel Logic is known for thinking outside the box and working expeditiously to deliver fuel wherever and however it can across disaster areas.
Ward said the Fuel Logic teams delivered fuel to generators at Tulsa-area nursing homes, hardware stores, medical centers, casinos, manufacturing facilities, a women’s shelter, youth shelter, Home Depot, and more.
For days and nights on end, Fuel Logic trucks continued to deliver gasoline and diesel to countless customers, including restaurants that were helping feed residents with no power, shelters that were providing temporary refuge for many people, and healthcare facilities that relied on generators to continue caring for patients.
“We came up with a lot of creative measures to supply fuel any way we could,” said Ward.
Resilience and Restoration
While the storm left a trail of destruction in its wake that Father’s Day weekend, community spirit was alive and well as support for Tulsa poured in from many directions.
Across the nation, it is standard protocol for utility companies to help each other across state lines when disaster strikes, and that’s exactly what took place in Tulsa.
The storm resulted in the most significant power outage PSO had seen since the January 2007 North American ice storm, and PSO reported that alongside its 700 employees, 2,700 reinforcements from about 20 different states, including Delaware, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and more, also helped restore power in the Tulsa metro.
Fuel Logic was honored to be a part of the coordinated recovery efforts in Tulsa, providing fuel assistance and hope … one gallon at a time.
“We believe in helping out as best we can during extreme weather events like Tulsa’s Father’s Day storm,” said Ward. “No matter how challenging the situation is, we are committed to providing superior fuel service as quickly and efficiently as possible. And where there’s a will, there’s always a way.”
Navigating the Future with Fuel Logic: Beyond Tulsa's Storm
In the chronicles of Tulsa's Father's Day storm, we find not just a tale of nature's fury, but a testament to our commitment to being a reliable partner when crisis strikes. Our rapid response in the aftermath of the storm exemplifies our dedication to stepping in when the community needs us most.
The story of Fuel Logic's mobilization to deliver fuel to critical locations serves as a reminder that preparedness and partnership are paramount. As we recount the events that unfolded, we invite businesses to consider their own strategies for resilience. How can you fortify operations to withstand unforeseen disruptions? What steps can you take to ensure the availability of essential resources in times of need?
While the storm was an unwelcome guest, it also offers us a mirror to reflect on our own capabilities. Fuel Logic stands ready not only for emergency response but also to be a steadfast ally in day-to-day operations. The narrative of Tulsa's storm encourages businesses to seek dependable partners, fostering confidence in the face of uncertainties.
As we share this story and other Tales From the Road, we invite you to explore its lessons and insights. Together, we can build strategies that navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow. Fuel Logic is here, not just as a fuel provider, but as a proactive force that helps businesses thrive, even in the face of adversity.