As I'm sure you have heard by now, it was yet another round of fatalities with tornadic storms that struck the greater Oklahoma City area on Friday.
Amazingly, it could have been MUCH worse. Amid the baseball-sized hail, 60-90 mph straight-line winds, and some flooded roads…they still did not see anything like the monster tornado that hit Moore almost two weeks ago. This was a very good thing: the roads gridlocked with a combination of rush-hour traffic…and perhaps extra cars from people trying to get out of the way of a possible tornado.
POINT #1: GET OUT OF VEHICLES!
For years, people have been told to evacuate cars and seek solid shelter if a tornado approaches. Cars and trucks are very dangerous places to be in tornadoes. That has not changed.
In recent years, especially in the wake of large tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin in 2011…then in Moore, OK in May…there have been some "experts" saying you should just drive out of harm's way.
What happens if everyone else has the same idea, especially in a populated area? Cars, and those in them, become sitting ducks.
What happens if, like Friday night, an east-moving tornado suddenly turns more southeast…or if the same complex of storms develops other tornadoes in other locations? Then you have a bunch of people on the roads who think they're driving to safety, only to find themselves in harm's way again.
A tornado doesn't have to stop for traffic jams or follow roads. You do.
Bottom line…same as it always was. Don't be sitting in a vehicle...get out and seek shelter either underground or on the bottom level of a building, putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
POINT #2: NO TORNADO IS WORTH DYING FOR…STAY AWAY!
Another round of incredible video has been seen on TV and on-line from Friday's storms. And many of these chasers got too close. Including current Weather Channel and former WLOS-TV meteorologist Mike Bettes, whose vehicle was flipped around. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
Some will take dumb risks; that's human nature. Many others who know better were still caught off-guard by sudden storm changes.
I wasn't there…I can't speak for these individual cases. But I've seen (and heard the audio from) enough of these videos over the past few years to make this observation: too many people are not paying attention to what's going on around them, instead developing "tunnel-vision"…too focused on one feature of the storm they're following and not paying enough attention to the environment around them. This leaves them vulnerable to sudden changes in direction and intensity of the storm…and may leave them without an escape route if something goes wrong.
How does this affect you? How many of you run outside with your phone/camera when bad weather hits? If you're one of them…and you're within a tornado warned area…DON'T. Even if you know what direction and speed the storm is moving in, where the possible tornado might be, and know if you're looking for a spin-up on the leading edge of the storm or if you should be concerned about the rear-flank downdraft (and if I just lost you there, that rests my case!), we have things here that they don't have much of in central Oklahoma. Hills. Trees. Things that block your view of the horizon, so you can't see what's going on until it's pretty close.
Bottom-Line for this one: if you're in a tornado warning, concentrate on what you need to do to keep you and your family safe. Being around for them tomorrow will be worth much more than whatever a picture or video will be worth today.