2013-05-31 EVENT: KS, OK, MO, IL

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Mar 23, 2013
327
159
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Denver, CO
Tornado emergencies in effect for downtown OKC, OK, El-Reno and Mustang.

http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/



I am watching several chasers streams


Brandon Sullivan's chase team took a hit from inflow winds that tossed around farm equipment, they are safe but done for the day.




via Steve Worthington - TWC BREAKING: TWC's Mike Bettes says his #TornadoHunt vehicle was thrown 200 yards by the tornado W of OKC. Airbags deployed. All are safe.


This just came in via Mike Bettis' Weather Page on FB




Adam Lucio: Were ok. Can't answer everyone. Got into outer circulation and bailed. Was very intense.


Some of our chasers are getting way too close to these tornadoes guys, good grief!!!

per Mike Morgan via KFOR feed tornado heading towards North Moore, OK
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
3,264
1,980
21
Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Yep...hopefully this will be a wake up call to some chasers who would don't seem to mind putting their lives in imminent danger just to "get the shot that no one else got". I get the feeling, though, that too many people escaped the situation without too much damage and no lesson will be learned.
 

CEngleman

Enthusiast
May 24, 2013
2
0
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Earlier reports were stating that they could not escape due to the number of vehicles near by.... is this the first incidence of a "Chaser Convergence" mishap? Where there used to be 2 -3 chasers on a road, now there are 30+ chasers, onlookers, and thrill seekers in a small area.

Always make sure you have an escape route...

Chris
 
Definitely not the first time something like this has happened. And sadly won't be the last. I'll never understand filming a violent, rain-wrapped, nearby tornado moving at high speeds. Add chaser convergence to that and you're going to have problems. I think some chasers think they are invincible; they get overconfident and think they know what mother nature is going to let them do. On nasty storms like this you can't know what it's going to do, so it's best to hang back and hope the storm cooperates later and gives you the shot. Don't force something dangerous.
 
Apr 14, 2011
310
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Alexandria, LA
TWC has been showing Bettis's last report before the vehicle flip, and the (big) tornado still looked a good mile or two distant; but he was very pointedly wrapping up the report by explaining that his chase group was moving immediately to get out of danger. Given this, it doesn't seem incredibly likely that they stuck around and waited for the tornado to hit them.

Some other videos I've seen, whose makers describe as being "in the tornado", look more like straight line winds. Perhaps some very strong inflow or outflow. In addition to the tornado itself, people need to be mindful of these peripheral hazards as they can be just as dangerous and a lot harder to see coming. I expect situational awareness and paying close attention to storm structure as a whole is just as important as the neat funnel over there.
 
Mar 23, 2013
327
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Denver, CO
chaser convergence isn't to be blamed entirely. KFOR's Mike Morgan and TWC were telling locals to evacuate the city and head south out of the metro. Those tornadoes shifted course towards the south and a lot of people were just sitting ducks on the highway with nowhere to go.

Today was a bad combination of arrogance for Mother Nature's power, lack of respect for what these storms do and bad advice from KFOR and TWC, and throw it all together in a major metropolitan area...it's a recipe for disaster and we saw just that today. It's gonna get worse and nothing will change until people end up dead or someone gets seriously and permanently injured/paralyzed/maimed.
 
Apr 14, 2011
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Alexandria, LA
I think it's a little too early to make even such determinations. So far the most serious damage reports including the damage to those chase vehicles, and the only casualties (unfortunately), were in the I-40 area to the west/north of the OKC metro area, not toward the south where people were evacuating.

A call to evacuate ahead of incoming severe thunderstorms, even one which turns out to be bad advice in retrospect, doesn't seem to me to be arrogance or a lack of respect for nature and the power of the storms; on the contrary it seems to indicate an extremely healthy respect for the life-threatening potential.
 
May 6, 2005
231
91
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Moore, OK
I have no problem with residents fleeing a storm and heading south. If there is a violent tornado heading toward you and you can't get below ground, this is the decision that could save your life. On May 20th, I watched both the north and south bound lanes of Telephone and Santa Fe flood with residents getting out of harms way (I was one of them). One problem is you need to get far enough south. Another problem is that most people think that tornadoes come from the SW and don't expect them to move ESE. Ex. How many people in Norman have heard someone say "Watch the weather in Lawton and Chickasha, because that will be coming to us."

The TV stations did tell people to get below ground or get out of the way today. However, I noted several times Gary and Mike both said that when the tornado was close that time was out to drive away, so find someplace to take cover.

On another note, chasers are trying to get too close to the tornado. Not everyone has a TIV or Dominator. Plus, many chasers are driving high profile SUVs, which lack some aerodymanics and are top heavy. This is particularly troublesome with a 60+mph crosswind.

Ideal chase car: bullet proof Ferrari with a lift kit and 4 wheel drive when needed to escape mud.
 

STexan

EF4
Feb 11, 2012
318
45
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Athens, TX
OKC made special "efforts" to warn people early in the day. I think this turned out to be a mistake. Too many treated this as a "hurricane" type event and fled at the worst possible time to where???? .... they just literally fled. This particular tornado was heavily rain-wrapped for a mile around and it was hard to tell just where you were in relation to what. Radar had a difficult time penetrating the water to yield meaningful images. Plus, the storm headed due east for a good part of the time, as was the interstate. I was in the bear cage for a bit, got and update then realized I was about to be ran over then managed to make it through some unbelievable wind-driven downpour to move on eastward.

I saw some people doing crazy things on the interstate (driving 60 MPH east in the west bound lane), and remaining stopped when they should have been trying to move to clear it's potential path. I got a few photos and some video from due east of the twister as it was crossing US 81. But after that it was a cluster f&^ck if you wanted to go any direction except east.

I began chasing a new cell that proceeded towards Kingfisher but bailed on it when I saw this to the south ...


The above photo would later take some lives along I-40

From due east of an eastward moving tornado
 
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Mar 23, 2013
327
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Denver, CO
A call to evacuate ahead of incoming severe thunderstorms, even one which turns out to be bad advice in retrospect, doesn't seem to me to be arrogance or a lack of respect for nature and the power of the storms; on the contrary it seems to indicate an extremely healthy respect for the life-threatening potential.
sorry let me clarify. the arrogance I was referring to was the people getting too close to these storms and under estimating their power and what they can do (shifting, funnels forming right on top of you or dropping down on top of you with little to no warning).
 

STexan

EF4
Feb 11, 2012
318
45
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Athens, TX
You can call it arrogance if you want, but crap happens to the best of us at some point. In my case, I wasn't trying to get "close", I was simply trying to get south and east of it out of the rain but between the roads and driving rain well out ahead of core, it was extremely difficult. I could have "waited it out" and potentially allowed the core to run me over, but I decided to move (to the extent I could and where I could). There was tennis ball hail to the north, driving rain and traffic to the east, and tornado to the west, and rapidly approaching tornado to the south and radar was not very definitive for much of the time and visual was hard to tell if you were looking at a large wedge or a massive rain/hail storm, or both.
 

STexan

EF4
Feb 11, 2012
318
45
11
Athens, TX
I finally made it out and headed south down I-35 towards home. There was an unbelievable amount of traffic headed south at 9:00 PM. When I arrived at Pauls Valley, there was a 2 mile backup (mostly in the right lane) with people exiting to Pauls Valley. Pauls Valley? Really? All those people decide to head out to see a concert or something in Pauls Valley on a stormy night? Whatever the OKC or OK brass decided that involved making special public announcements 12 and 24 hours in advance had to have been a big part of this mess, otherwise, nothing about the traffic patterns and congestion made any sense, even given the weather situation.

Maybe you're expected to stop traffic from entering westbound when there is a large potential wedge tornado heading due east potentially along an interstate highway. But that only served to divert traffic south (in this case) Maybe they could have made it home, maybe they'd have ran head-on into a rain-wrapped wedge, but as it was, they were forced to create a bigger traffic problem, trapping thousands on major N/S thoroughfares. It's lucky these these complexes didn't put more twisters and wedges on the ground headed in a myriad of different directions. God gave OKC a break Friday night. Little destructive tornado damage, but plenty of roof repair work and dollars is on the way.
 
May 22, 2007
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Getting out of the path of a tornadic storm is a good idea for one person, but it is a terrible idea for a city. Was this seriously encouraged? How could anybody expect the roads to handle the traffic? I was very concerned when I heard this was suggested during the Moore tornado a few weeks ago, and now it seems those concerns were validated. I would hope that a large city in the middle of violent tornado country would know better than to do this. If there had actually been a violent tornado on the ground it sounds like this could have been a catastrophe.
 

Mike Smith

Ryan:

It was mentioned in several tweets by OUN NWS at mid-afternoon. The OKC TV stations also mentioned it. Whether it was "encouraged" is subjective.

Mike
 

STexan

EF4
Feb 11, 2012
318
45
11
Athens, TX
I can't find a news article but in a phone interview I heard Friday night with either the Mayor, or the Governor, they mentioned that they had put notice up on all the traffic message signs earlier that morning and/or Thursday afternoon. Not sure exactly what the message stated but I gathered it was something they had never done before until this system.

Edit:
But as I reflect on the situation, I don't think there is anything that they (the people and the emergency managers) did or should have done that was wrong. It was the scope of the system, encompassing a large metro area, and moving directly along one of only 2 major ingress/egress highways in a west to east manner. Coupled with the reality that those reporting on live TV and radio were "in the dark" in relation to what was or was not on the ground and it's potential path, and that what the next minutes may hold were anyone's guess. So anyone listening who DID NOT have a safe shelter was forced with a difficult decision.

As far as halting traffic from proceeding West past OKC, I suppose that was warranted given the realities of that particular situation (the tornadic potential seemed to be tracking directly along I-40 and showed no indications of changing). Where that traffic was supposed to go once diverted off I-40 I don't know.

It was a particularly unusual situation with a lot of potential impact coverage and no way of knowing anything for certain. The one thing they did know for certain was that 3 miles of stopped traffic between El Reno and OKC was going to be disastrous. And storm relative motion and it's geographic orientation and timing could not have been much worse for the people and the EM's

But it appears a lot of last minute decisions were made by a lot of the public ... decisions to "evacuate". If evacuating their homes was going to be a viable option for some and given the advance warning, it would seem many would have bugged out much earlier in the afternoon rather than wait until the storms were at their back door.
 
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May 6, 2005
231
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Moore, OK
I think everyone seems to be forgetting that this was a Friday evening. While some businesses allowed their employees to leave early, most did not. Peak rush hour in OKC is from 5 to 7pm. Put that on top of all the extra traffic you get for a Friday and things were going to be bad. Gary England literally threw his arms up in the air when he heard that OHP wasn't able to shut down I-35 between I-40 and I-240. He knew those cars were going to be sitting ducks.

Perhaps, we as chasers need to realize the realistic threat that citizens in a populated metropolitan areas face during violent tornado outbreaks. People are scared after the Moore tornado. I have been through Briarwood and seen the complete devastation first hand. 75% of my old neighbors lost their homes. I will never, ever, ride out a tornado event with the ingredients we had today inside of an interior closet. For years, I loaded the family up and got the hell out of the way. Luckily for me I got my shelter yesterday. But, I still know people who would simply not survive EF-4 tornadoes because they can't get below ground.

So rather then get mad at them for contributing to chaser convergence, we should consider the ethical approach as a chaser and stay away from Metro areas. The last thing people need when a violent tornado is headed at them is a storm chaser blocking their flee to safety. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the local yahoos. See this section I started on wikipedia with references to Doswell's and Edwards' take on chasing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_chasing#Ethics

In metro areas there are already plenty of chasers with the TV stations to provide realtime updates to the public and NWS. Our presence in metros likely will not add any more value to the general public.

Another part of the problem (beyond chasers) is that the general public needs to take precautions immediately. It is our responsibility as weather enthusiast, storm chasers, and meteorologist to inform everyone we know in harms way that the weather conditions look bad. For example, if you see that a tornado will head into Yukon within 40 minutes, inform everyone you know in Yukon of the situation. Make a plan for them to seek safety.

The TV stations told people to get underground or out of the way. However, when the tornado was too close, say 20 minutes out, they advised people that fleeing was no longer an option. At that time they were told to find a shelter with a neighbor or get into an interior closet. As many walls as possible and cover up with pillows, blankets, helmets, etc.

It is unfortunate, but tornadoes don't care about the man-made boundaries between urban and rural areas. No matter what happens, urban areas will always have more problems during tornadoes than rural. So, make sure you preach weather awareness on days of heightened risk.
 
Feb 27, 2009
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Texarkana, AR
With Moore fresh on everyone's mind I don't think it would have mattered what media said in regards to fleeing. If you don't have substantial shelter, then fleeing seems like the safer alternative. Leaving sooner isn't really a good option unless you are going to travel a long distance. Weather is unpredictable and where an individual updraft will spin up is extremely unpredictable. What if one formed where you had evacuated too? I just hope chasers don't get into bashing the actions of local folks too much considering chasers are the ones that really don't have any business being in the area and on the roads.
 
Feb 14, 2005
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Charleston, South Carolina
Don't understand why there is only one tornado report for Oklahoma on the SPC Storm Reports for yesterday, and that was in Nowata in the northeastern section of the state. No reports at all for the OKC metro. There were obviously numerous tornadoes on video and even 5 deaths reported in the media. At any rate, seemed like the motions and HP nature of these storms yesterday certainly had many experienced chasers rattled. Watched some of the coverage on KWTV and Gary England seemed to be having trouble keeping his own staff of chasers calmed down and focused, at one point even scolding them for getting too close.
 
I started out chasing yesterday but had to change plans with the tornado on a direct path to my house. We bought it 6 months ago and it has no storm shelter, so moving out of the way is the primary plan. So, I dropped east, picked up the wife and kids and moved south. My biggest concern in doing so was the traffic and how it would react knowing there was a large wedge moving towards the metro (radar showed a huge hook and reports over the radio were saying mile wide tornado), especially with Moore fresh on the minds of people. We were able to drop south with some congestion, not a lot, but that was before the public reacted so there's no telling how bad it would have been had we moved down 15 minutes later. I talked to a couple of people in Chickasha who had done the exact same thing due to their houses being in the direct path. My wife and I had discussed her taking the kids to my parents house in western OK out of the danger zone, but by the time she got out of work the weather stations were saying initiation would be taking place within 30 minutes and I didn't want to send her down I-40 driving into something that I knew would blow up quickly. So we had a plan, it worked...but only because we reacted sooner than the public as a whole.

I can't blame the public, I did the same thing. It's a smart move on a small scale basis, but when a mass exodus takes place that where the danger lies. On the other hand, how do you tell folks who have inadequate shelter to sit in the way of a large tornado?
 
Good question, Sean--i dunno, what percentage of residents have "inadequate shelter"?

Yep...hopefully this will be a wake up call to some chasers who would don't seem to mind putting their lives in imminent danger just to "get the shot that no one else got". I get the feeling, though, that too many people escaped the situation without too much damage and no lesson will be learned.
Amen. I also don't buy the media BS about 'doing a public service' by broadcasting up close video to supposedly make the danger 'real' to the public so they take the warning seriously. Seems to me, the ramping up of weather porn is having the opposite effect, sending more people out on the roads to hopefully get their crappy video broadcast.
 

Coy A. Wilhelmy

Enthusiast
Apr 21, 2010
5
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Fenton, MO
Exactly. We had a local yokel get in front of the St. Charles, MO tornado while running video. He let himself get ran over by the outer circulation. All of the local media were treating him like he was a fearless hero. He wasn't a chaser, but "his friend" told him the tornado was near him so he thought he would go "check it out".
 
Oct 27, 2011
52
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Panama City, FL
I can't find a news article but in a phone interview I heard Friday night with either the Mayor, or the Governor, they mentioned that they had put notice up on all the traffic message signs earlier that morning and/or Thursday afternoon. Not sure exactly what the message stated but I gathered it was something they had never done before until this system.

But it appears a lot of last minute decisions were made by a lot of the public ... decisions to "evacuate". If evacuating their homes was going to be a viable option for some and given the advance warning, it would seem many would have bugged out much earlier in the afternoon rather than wait until the storms were at their back door.
They have used the signs in the past to let motorists know of a particularly dangerous situation. One thing that bothers me is that Mike Morgan said on live TV for people to head south if they couldn't get underground. However the roads were already backed up. He is lucky that he didn't accidentally cause hundreds of deaths.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX7uzdfktB4&t=180s
 
Mar 23, 2013
327
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Denver, CO
I started out chasing yesterday but had to change plans with the tornado on a direct path to my house. We bought it 6 months ago and it has no storm shelter, so moving out of the way is the primary plan. So, I dropped east, picked up the wife and kids and moved south. My biggest concern in doing so was the traffic and how it would react knowing there was a large wedge moving towards the metro (radar showed a huge hook and reports over the radio were saying mile wide tornado), especially with Moore fresh on the minds of people. We were able to drop south with some congestion, not a lot, but that was before the public reacted so there's no telling how bad it would have been had we moved down 15 minutes later. I talked to a couple of people in Chickasha who had done the exact same thing due to their houses being in the direct path. My wife and I had discussed her taking the kids to my parents house in western OK out of the danger zone, but by the time she got out of work the weather stations were saying initiation would be taking place within 30 minutes and I didn't want to send her down I-40 driving into something that I knew would blow up quickly. So we had a plan, it worked...but only because we reacted sooner than the public as a whole.

I can't blame the public, I did the same thing. It's a smart move on a small scale basis, but when a mass exodus takes place that where the danger lies. On the other hand, how do you tell folks who have inadequate shelter to sit in the way of a large tornado?
Good post Sean. I'm just wondering, how is it homes in Oklahoma have no basements? These types of storms aren't new to Oklahoma, I'm just kinda surprised ALL homes, businesses, schools and buildings of any type aren't mandated to have some sort of underground shelter or basement. This thing is a fairly common occurence in Oklahoma, you'd figure they'd be use it and that preparations as such would have already been made years (30-40 years ago) in advance.
 
May 21, 2011
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News networks talking about how professional & safe the videos and chasers are that they show? For ex. Mike Bettes does a dis-service getting a vehicle demolished: too close, too irresponsible, way too ratings-crazy. I've been at this since 1996, even subscribed & contributed to the StormTrack paper version. But, it's not about me, it's about the fact that during the last week, we've reached a new low, because people are putting themselves in positions to get hit by tornadoes, & then saying Ooops, & providing the media with torn-porn. Frankly, it's an embarrassing time to be a chaser.
 
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
3,264
1,980
21
Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Good post Sean. I'm just wondering, how is it homes in Oklahoma have no basements? These types of storms aren't new to Oklahoma, I'm just kinda surprised ALL homes, businesses, schools and buildings of any type aren't mandated to have some sort of underground shelter or basement. This thing is a fairly common occurence in Oklahoma, you'd figure they'd be use it and that preparations as such would have already been made years (30-40 years ago) in advance.
There's currently some debate going on as to the actual reason for this. Many people will say that the soil in C OK is very impermeable and clayish so that water doesn't soak into it very well and that will lead to higher maintenance costs and water leaking into the basement. While there is some truth to that, I've also heard it's just a money and effort issue. I have also been told that if you have a basement, you need to keep the soil within a foot or so of the foundation constantly moist because dry soil shrinks away from the wall and can leave the foundation unbalanced or prone to damage. People don't want to pay for the extra construction (apparently due to the soil issue, it is a bit more expensive compared to other parts of the world). Given Oklahoma isn't the wealthiest state in the country, I think many people and businesses would just rather save money. Hopefully someone more knowledgeful than me can chime in on this, though, as I'm only providing second- or thirdhand information.