Lucky to be alive: Friends chase tornado

New video of a deadly tornado that ripped through Northern Kentucky has emerged and the man who shot it says he's lucky to be alive.

"We were attempting to get away from it, and we ran right into it," said an amateur storm chaser who got a little more than he planned for on Friday, March, 2.

Matthew Pickett, from Indianapolis, was visiting a friend in the Greater Cincinnati area when the tornado warnings started to go out. The pair decided to hop in the car and head into Northern Kentucky to chase the storm. Pickett and his friend were heading down southbound I-75 and pulled off at the Walton exit as the storm turned severe. Pickett says the sky turned green and it began to hail.

The friends heard on the radio that a tornado was heading toward Walton, so they then decided to try and outrun the storm by heading south on I-75, but unfortunately, that took them right into the path of an EF-3 tornado.

Pickett and his friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, pulled off to the side of the highway and caught the tornado on video, as it was forming. From the video, you can see the tornado formed just west of the highway, and became a full-fledged, wedge tornado as it crossed I-75. It then became very dark and rain-wrapped, making it hard to see.

A look at the tornado's path from the National Weather Service proves that Pickett and his friend witnessed the formation and severity of this tornado first-hand.

"In all my time of storm chasing, it's the first time I saw one so big, and so close to us," said Pickett.

"I was freaking out, saying ‘oh God, please don't pick us up, please don't pick us up!'"

The tornado continued east for 10 miles total creating a path of destruction about a quarter-mile wide, that stretched from Crittenden, through Piner. The EF-3 tornado had winds estimated of up to 160 mph and destroyed trees and homes along the way.

In the end, the tornado that Pickett and his friend witnessed killed four people, injured many and caused devastating damage.

Radar images coming from the National Weather Service shows a well-defined hook echo, typical of a tornado.

Another image shows a bright-colored spot of bright blue and bright yellow, right next to each other. This image shows winds going toward the radar and winds going away. This image is also very telling of the spin in the atmosphere and the tornadic nature of this storm due to the bright colors situated so closely, and in such a tight formation.

Pickett and his friend never expected to be that close to a tornado, and especially one of that size. He's changed his opinion on storm chasing and suggests that no one EVER get as close as they did. The friends did not think they were going to survive.

"My heart goes out to all the people in the areas that got hit," Pickett said. "It was really crazy and chaotic…a crazy tornado."

9 News viewer Kevin McDaniel posted Pickett's video to You Tube.

Watch the video below. (Note to mobile users: Open story in a web browser to watch the video.)

(To watch more videos of the tornadoes go to http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/weather/weather_news/videos-deadly-tornadoes-captured-on-camera )
 

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