Atchley became a storm chaser for the city about 10 years ago. He said he and Moore had worked at a Muskogee factory for 20 years before Moore left to work in emergency management.
“He called me and said, ‘I want to know if you can volunteer,’ ” Atchley said. “It was 2003.”
He recalled taking a picture of one huge tornado.
“I think it was 2004 or 2005, I chased a tornado out west of town,” he said.
The speed of the tornado was the first thing Atchley recalls noticing.
“If the wind is 70 miles an hour or above, there is usually a tornado involved,” he said. “At that point, I was looking at the biggest wall cloud I had ever seen, and I knew it would touch down in 15 seconds. It was amazing. The wall cloud itself traveled from 30 miles west to almost to 10 miles northeast. It was a huge squall line wall cloud. It touched down in a field. It took down a lot of trees, took a roof off a barn, but there were no casualties. We were blessed.”
He said he submitted the photo to the Muskogee Phoenix, which published it on the front page.
Watching storms can take long hours.
“Once in the last month, we worked 28 hours straight, no sleep at all,” Atchley said. “Then we did another 15 hours straight.”
His storm-chasing involves work in the command center as well as in the field.
“When my director is on vacation or sick leave, he calls me to come in and run all the radars, and I dispatch out to 10 other volunteers,” he said.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I don’t know how it happened, but I’m a distant cousin of Merle Haggard. Once you’ve been in Muskogee and you leave for a bigger town, the bigger town is not very friendly. The day after I graduated from high school, I came back to Muskogee. I missed all my friends and my grandmother. Plus, in Houston, you have to drive on a six-lane freeway to go to the grocery store.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“Small venues such as the Roxy and the Civic Center. But the people are the biggest thing. I’ve never run into a bad person in Muskogee.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“More venues, more restaurants. The biggest thing is our community coming together to help our local law enforcement.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Maintenance technician at Muskogee Police Department.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“I spend time with my daughter.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“Jimmy Moore. He’s a mentor. He has taught me about life and family, and most of all, about trust and friendship.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“I’ve done so many things. The most memorable has been my surgery. There’s been so much bad, but I’ve become a new person.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“What you see is what you get.”