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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Oklahoma City's KFOR TV In A Public Relations Disaster

I've been watching TV news for more than half a century and I've been working in the industry for more than two decades.

Never in all that time have I seen/heard a broadcaster act so irresponsibly as what was done on KFOR TV-4 during the Friday- May 31 tornado that struck near El Reno OK..

KFOR's "chief meteorologist" Mike Morgan told viewers/listeners that they would not survive the El Reno tornado if it continued the 25 miles east to Oklahoma City if people didn't have below ground shelter.

Mr. Morgan also told people to flee their homes "and drive south."

Over the next hour or so- tens of thousands of motorists created monsterous traffic jams on not only freeways- but other primary and secondary roadways going south out of OK City.

The vehicle gridlock would surely have meant hundreds of fatalities if the now EF-5 tornado would have continued on into OK City- rather- the big tornado lifted just west of Yukon OK- and two smaller tornadoes touched down in parts of south and southeast OK City.

Mr. Morgan's supporters state "it was rush hour."

Metro Kansas City- a million people bigger- has our evening "rush hour" pretty much over by 6:30 pm- about the time the first tornado began forming miles west-southwest of El Reno.

I've also read the man's supporters state "he saved thousands of lives."

I'd like to know how that was so on May 31?

The 2.6 mile-wide EF-5 tornado lifted before hitting any population centers and if it had not lifted and hit OK City- the gridlock on roadways with families in their cars would have almost assured a death toll in the hundreds.

Many of those hundreds dead in the cars probably would have survived in their residences getting to an interior room and covering up.

Two small tornadoes- and EF-0 and an EF-1 did strike south OK City but fortunately too missed the freeway parking lots.

Mike Morgan has received a lot of criticism for his words to evacuate and rightly so.

Doesn't KFOR know this is 2013 where many Americans can't think for themselves and take whatever the bright box with moving pictures tells them as gospel?

Many folks who heard Mr. Morgan say they were going to die if they didn't run figured he knew something they didn't- and many threw their proper tornado safety procedures out the window and jumped in their vehicles.

Mike Morgan has not been on KFOR TV since last Friday- critics and supporters both are wondering aloud on KFOR's Facebook page what has become of the man.

The station management has not issued any statements on the whole affair and with their silence- at least in my book- creates a serious credibility problem for KFOR TV-4.


Xavier Onassis said...

I'm not so sure his advice was all that bad. Hear me out.

I'm no meteorologist, but I've lived in the KS/MO are all my life. In my experience, most of the time the weather capable of producing tornadoes and the tornadoes themselves follow a fairly straight line.

I've never seen a severe weather track or a tornado track that just meandered around all willy nilly.

The storms will most likely be travelling from south to north and from west to east.

If I lived in a house with no basement and there was the potential of an EF4-5 heading towards me, I would get in the car and drive north and west of the line of super cells just as fast as I could go.

Different story if it's one of those big rotational systems that isn't moving away but hovering over a vast area. Then you just make sure you are at peace with the universe.

Am I wrong?

Groucho K. Marx said...

XO- I know you're pretty savvy with a lot of things ;)

I too am no degreed meteorologist- but have been totally nuts over the subject of tornadoes since 1957's Ruskin Heights grinder.

Home-tracked them in the area in ernest around 1964 and began "chasing" storms I soon as I got a driver's license in 1969 (only very limited now).

Lemme tell you my friend- most of the longer-track (more than 10 miles long) twisters can and do take jogs.

The most dramatic I saw was in 2003- when the tornado formed west of Bonner Spgs.- through KC-KS into the Missouri Northland.

The original tornado suddenly disappeared over I-29 just west of U.S. 169/Arrowhead Fry. and within a minute- reformed a mile north-northeast on N.W. Englewood just east of Arrowhead and headed toward Liberty.

But to make a short story long- tornadoes- especially longer track ones- can change direction and intensity often.

The widest (2.6 miles) and most intense (EF/F-5) part of the El Reno tornado was 7 to 9 miles long.

That tornado lifted a few miles west of Yukon- after doing a southerly loop around El Reno.

Even though radars still indicated strong rotation- because of the torrential rain- all the stations spotter/chasers couldn't really see anything.

The rest- fortunately- is not a tragic history.

My contention is the panic bells started sounding as the tornado was still miles west of Yukon.

Chasers had high-pitched- panicky tones in their voice (I had to turn the volume way down) and the head weatherguy is telling you emphatically "'re going to die."

An early darkness falls over Oklahoma City- there's heavy rain- hail- lots of lightning and thunder and people had the May 20 Moore tornado fresh in their minds.

Refer to my comment about how too many people react to things that come on their video screen when the serious gloom and doom talk began.

You can't "spook the herd" like that and go against the most basic tornado safety rules.

And Rule 1 is don't be caught in your vehicle when a tornado's coming.

You just can't- as a broadcaster- be encouraging that natural flight impulse in ANY way.

Remember- there were thousands of Moore residents who just found their "tornado safe" place wherever they were- and were just fine afterwards.

If you want to leave where you're at and go someplace else that's your right as an American.

I gamble too sometimes XO- but it's at a casino.

Anonymous said...

Mike morgan has always been an alarmist, playing up the fear element as much as possible. I live in okc and I never watch channel 4 because of is irresponsible at best putting lives at risk with advice a third grader would not give.