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Meteorologist talks storm chasing and her rescue dog

Storm chaser Emily Sutton rescued her dog Okie from the Tulsa Animal Shelter.

Meteorologist Emily Sutton, who has been with KFOR News Channel 4 in Oklahoma City since 2009, is wildly popular.

Just ask her 89,000 fans on Facebook (and the number just keeps going up!).

“You can just tell Emily really is doing what she loves and truly cares about the people of Oklahoma,” said KFOR viewer Brad Warren. “She is very knowledgeable and thorough in her preparation. She’s also hilarious, has a great smile and makes you feel comfortable.”

And her sidekick doesn’t hurt when it comes to helping her viewers get to know her.

Emily Sutton and her rescue dog Okie visit school children. Emily Sutton

“Her dog Okie is a cutie and a local celebrity,” said Warren.

“He’s in a few promos (commercials) on our station and he barks when he sees himself on TV!” said Emily. “He is the only dog I have ever known to be able to see his reflection and watch TV. If he sees a dog on TV, he will bark. He really enjoys watching the show Long Island Medium with me. Maybe he can see ghosts (laughs)? He’s also a part of our weather program. We call him Okie the Weather Dog.”

Sometimes Okie joins Emily when she visits groups in the community to educate people about the weather.

“We use his tennis ball to demonstrate how hail forms!” said Emily. “His one love in life is a tennis ball. Seriously, he would pick a tennis ball over any kind of food or maybe over me?! I wish I could be as happy as Okie is about a tennis ball.”

KFOR meteorologist and storm chaser Emily Sutton adopted her dog Okie from the Tulsa Animal Shelter.Emily Sutton supports Fetching-Apparel.com!

Emily & Okie!

Okie has come a long way from when Emily picked him at the Tulsa Animal Shelter.

“We anxiously waited for the shelter volunteers to bring him out and meet him for the first time,” said Emily. “As soon as he turned the corner, tail between his legs, my heart melted!”

Emily had already paid the adoption fee to get Okie before she ever laid eyes on him.

Storm chaser Emily Sutton adopted her dog Okie from the Tulsa Animal Shelter. He's come a long way since this photo was taken.Tulsa Animal Shelter

“I had wanted a dog for a long time but knew the commitment and costs so I wanted to wait for the right time and right place,” she said. “Once I moved into a rental house with a big backyard I knew I could start looking for a dog. My parents bought their dogs but I wanted to rescue. There are so many loving pets that need a home. My aunt rescued a few Brittanys from a Brittany rescue so I knew there were breed specific rescues available. I filled out an application with English Springer Rescue America but didn’t hear anything back. A year later, I filled out one again and heard back a few weeks later that a Springer was available in Oklahoma! The rescue ended up falling through and I was bummed. A month or so later, the organization alerted me to a possible Springer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All I saw was a picture of a puppy in a grocery cart. I still don’t know why they put him in a grocery cart? He had another picture from the Tulsa Animal Shelter and he looked so sad.  He had a long tail which I wasn’t used to. I didn’t know what to do, if it was the right time or not. Originally, I planned on adopting a little girl but he was just too perfect…4 or 5 months old and a Springer! I prayed about it and Michael, my boyfriend at the time (now fiancé!), convinced me to go for it.  I called the shelter and paid the fee without even meeting him! It was a gamble for sure.”

One that paid off big time. Emily and Okie bonded immediately.

Emily Sutton and Okie bonded immediately the day she picked him up from the Tulsa Animal Shelter.Emily Sutton

“Okie is the happiest dog around,” said Emily. “He is always wagging his tail or butt. He has a big, alpha personality. He’s a goober.”

At the end of a stressful day, Emily loves having Okie at home to greet her. And when I say stressful, it’s no exaggeration.

Emily is a STORM CHASER!

So how did this puppy lovin’ young lady from the suburbs of Chicago end up chasing storms in Oklahoma? That’s what I wanted to know.

“Looking back, I’ve always been fascinated with weather,” said Emily. “When summer storms would approach in Chicago, my dad would take me outside to look at the skies and “track” the storms.  I read every book on tornadoes in the library and had my parents record every tornado special on TV – on VHS…yeah! I didn’t realize I wanted to be a meteorologist though until college. I attribute this to the fact that I didn’t see any female meteorologists on television growing up so I didn’t know it was an option! As a freshman at the University of Missouri, my journalism advisor asked which classes sounded interesting and I chose intro to meteorology.  I found out Mizzou has a storm chase team and immediately wanted to join. You had to add a minor or a major so I “temporarily” added a minor so I could storm chase. April 22, 2004 was my first storm chase and I saw my first tornado near Tulsa, Oklahoma – foreshadowing? This sparked my passion for weather and I added the major next fall. Nothing can compare to the thrill of watching a tornado form in front of your eyes. Storm chasing served as an outdoor classroom…you can only learn so much from your nose in the books or eyes on the radar.”

Now Emily is living her dream.

“It’s super wild!” said Emily. “I get PAID to storm chase. That is so awesome. In Oklahoma, I have experienced some of the most extreme and powerful weather on Earth. Oklahoma City is the MECCA of severe weather. A few weeks after I started on air, Oklahoma City experienced the largest snowstorm on record. I’ve covered record snow, rainfall, hail and tornadoes. In May 2013, I experienced more than most meteorologists experience in a lifetime. I came within a mile of 3 violent tornadoes – EF4 and EF5. On May 20, 2013 I watched as an EF5 tornado churned up the town of Moore. While incredibly fascinating from a meteorological standpoint, it was horrifying and devastating to watch as a fellow human being.”

Then May 31st, 2013 happened.

“I chased the widest tornado on record – we didn’t know that at the time. This happened less than two weeks after the killer EF5 Moore tornado.  Looking at the severe weather parameters, we knew it was going to be a bad day with large tornadoes likely in central Oklahoma…especially near the Metro. My storm chase partner and I chased the southern storm that produced a multi-vortex wedge tornado. Thankfully, the tornado mainly moved through farm fields. It took an erratic path with unusual turns. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of this particular tornado resulted in the loss of life of veteran storm chaser, and pioneer in his field, Tim Samaras, his son Paul and his chase partner Carl Young. My chase partner and I were only a mile or so down the same road where they were killed. We were tracking the tornado to our southeast as it moved to the southeast. Suddenly it made a turn north – a left turn from our perspective. Mobile radar showed this is when the tornado went from 1 mile wide to 2.6 miles wide in only 30 seconds! The strengthening of that low pressure caused winds to drastically increase into the tornado; sometimes the winds feeding into a large tornado can reach 100 plus miles per hour. As I cautiously drove backwards to get away from this quickly changing and dangerous situation, the wind started picking up. I kept my eyes on the tornado crossing the road in front of us as my chase partner and photographer, Kevin Josefy, guided me to go right or left. Suddenly the wind increased so much that the trees started bending and we heard a loud noise and a swish of wind on our backs – our back window blew out. I kept calm and focused, driving backwards away from the tornado. My chase partner told me to stop but there was NO way I was going to stop with the tornado in front of us so I kept driving. He yelled “stop!” again and I stopped alright, once I ran into a guardrail! Our dash cam came flying down and so our footage on air is us driving backwards, the wind picking up, my voice cutting out and then the camera falls and the picture goes black. This clip kept playing over and over again on national networks like MSNBC, The Weather Channel and CNN. My parents in Chicago did not know I was storm chasing and people started calling them asking if I died. EEK!”

Emily and her chase partner got away unscathed.

“I drove south to get away from the situation and we stopped to evaluate everything,” said Emily. “We didn’t have any injuries but the chase was over with a busted window. We ended up seeing a few more tornadoes that day as we tried to escape the storms. We had to drive 2 hours out of our way to get around the monster storm system. Thankfully a fire department in a small town named Binger helped us patch up our rear window.  It wasn’t until the next day when we found out about the tornado killing Tim Samaras and his crew that we realized how close we were to getting killed. Post analysis suggests that even though we could see the tornado in front of us, that was actually the condensation funnel and that we were likely in the outer bands of the tornado. I believe we had a guardian angel on our side that day. I don’t plan on ever getting that close again!”

Emily has learned many lessons while doing her job. One of which is about the people in her community.

“Oklahomans are amazing,” she said. “There is a term here called “The Oklahoma Standard.” The term originated after the Oklahoma City bombing when instead of running away from the chaos, people ran in to help. Oklahoma is the land of extremes and, unfortunately, home to many natural disasters. However, when disaster strikes, neighbors always help neighbors. I have learned to keep an eye out for those in need and give whenever possible.”

Okie is a perfect example of that. Emily has given him such a loving home. And the fact that he’s famous doesn’t seem to faze him!

Okie the shelter dog came from the Tulsa Animal Shelter in Oklahoma. He's an English Springer Spaniel.Rebecca Pepin | Fetching Apparel

“Everybody LOVES Okie,” said Emily. “He is not an official therapy dog so I don’t bring him to big events because he gets nervous and expresses his glands – STINKY. My fiancé is often the handler so he gets blamed for the smell (laughs)!  Okie loves kids and they love him back! He interacts well unless he sees a reflection – from a watch or a phone or something else. He’ll fixate on reflections and try to hunt them. I have no idea how to stop this.”

Idiosyncrasies and all, Okie is an important part of Emily’s family.

Emily Sutton rescued Okie from the Tulsa Animal Shelter. Emily, Michael and Okie

“Most couples get engaged and then get a dog,” said Emily. “Michael and I had only been dating for a month and a half when I adopted Okie. Now we are Okie’s mom and dad. Okie kind of watched our relationship unfold. I hope Okie will be around for the birth of our first child – God willing. I couldn’t imagine my life without him…and Michael, too (laughs).”

(If you’d like to learn more about Emily, you can check out this recent article about her in Popular Mechanics.)

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