The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 3, 2013

Experienced chasers are vulnerable facing nature’s fury during tornado season


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Washington Post headline June 1 was self-explanatory: “The day that should change tornado actions and storm chasing forever.”

The 18 deaths from the May 31 tornado serve as a cautionary tale. TV broadcasts described interstate thoroughfares as parking lots.

That becomes a deadly mix with tornadic storms that bring high winds, large hail and flash flooding, especially when the severe weather is rain-wrapped.

With the May 31 tornado encompassing Interstate 40, KFOR-TV meteorologist Mike Morgan surprisingly offered the following advice for those not below ground:

“Go south,” Morgan said. “Get on down here toward west Moore, somewhere down here. This is safe down here. Get way down here. Down by Newcastle. Just take I-44. Just go down to Newcastle. Just get out of the way of it. If you can get down here, you’re going to be safe.”

As weather researcher Harold Brooks noted, incidents such as the 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas, teach us that fleeing the storm potentially is catastrophic.

If you can’t get underground, Brooks suggests getting as low as possible and putting as many walls as possible between yourself and the storm.

The deaths of three storm chasers from the Discovery Channel tracking the twisters serve a sobering point. Victim Tim Samaras, hailed by colleagues as a pioneer, was fascinated by the “Wizard of Oz” tornado as a child.

Even those with experience can be vulnerable facing nature’s fury.