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Saturday, June 01, 2013

One Oklahoma City TV Station Suggested Outrunning May 31 Tornado

News stories today are making a point of how many Oklahoma City residents were in their vehicles when the El Reno tornado-storm rolled in.





Tens of thousands of people took to the roads to escape the approaching twister.


At least ten of those folks died (reported two of those from flash flooding) and more than one hundred people were hurt.


What those news stories fail to point out is that at least one broadcast TV news station actually encouraged people to escape the storm via their cars.



We were watching KFOR-TV4 online when the tornado dropped from the boiling skies several miles southwest of El Reno on Friday evening.



As the funnel itself grew from a series of 'dancing fingers' into a cone- then a wedge shape- both the storm chasers and the on-air staff were growing increasingly concerned and rightly so.

The tornado was on the southern flank of a high-precipitation (HP) supercell- but new storm cells were also rapidly building southwest of this storm..

Not only did that not allow news helicopters (KWTV's-KFOR's GyroCam bird was down) a closer and clearer view of the existing tornado- but the new storms were disturbing wind flows into and out of the the El Reno tornado storm.

The tornadic circulation shifted southeast toward Union City in a matter of a couple of minutes and quickly became wraped in rain.

After several more minutes the circulation- with new vortices spinning up anywhere around the approximately mile-diameter wall cloud- starts shifting left (eastward) again.

Suddenly as it approached U.S. 81 a few miles south of El Reno- the tornado shifted sharply left- to the northeast.

This is where the Weather Channel crew got caught.

Just a mile or two southeast of El Reno- the tornado danced along and either side of Interstate 40 toward Yukon.  




At one point during KFOR's 'wall to wall' storm coverage- KFOR's "chief meteorologist" Mike Morgan said on the air "if you can't get underground- try to outrun the tornado."




That's right- get in your vehicle and flee the approaching storm.



(Here's a link to a WASHINGTON POST newspaper story that tells more.)


That might reasonably be done pre-1994 ('Twister') in rural areas with good north-south roads... 

Now- even in a rural area it's a crapshoot with all the storm chaser traffic.


In a large metropolitan area- trying to outrun a tornado could result in being in your coffin with four wheels.


Pre-tornado wind and rain can close roads vital to ones' escape.

Wrecks from panicky drivers can also constrict/close those roadways.


As seen in OKC on Friday- the huge number of people in their vehicles trying to get away from the storm on top of the later afternoon drive-time commuters made many of the freeways and major arterials low-speed parking lots.



Fortunately the large tornado had broken up into two smaller- less intense (but still deadly) tornadoes as it ground along I-40 north of the OKC airport and through southern and southeastern Oklahoma City.


The safest and surest way to outrun a tornado is as soon as a tornado watch is issued where you live- get in your vehicle- drive to the airport- and take a flight to a state where no tornadoes are forecast.


Otherwise- HAVE a below ground level storm shelter at your disposal or pre-plan where one close by might be.

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