Saturday, June 01, 2013

PBS Nova: "Oklahoma's Deadliest Tornadoes", about Moore, airs just before the May 31 outbreak

Thursday, May 30, 2013, PBS Nova aired an “emergency” documentary, “Oklahoma’s Deadliest Tornadoes”, after the May 20, 2013 EF5 tornado devastated Moore, OK (fifteen miles south of Oklahoma City on I-35).  The link is here. The documentary aired a day before another major outbreak May 31 (below). 

The film focuses on the science of explaining how tornadoes form so suddenly, and how warnings can be increased, and discussed the lack of basements and storm safe cellars in this part of the country.
The film also traced the history of the 2011 tornado outbreaks that destroyed sections of Tuscaloosa, AL and Joplin MO.  The Joplin tornado formed suddenly, and the Tuscaloosa outbreak resembled one in November, 2002, the “second tornado season”.
On Friday night, May 31, 2013 there was another large outbreak around Oklahoma City (especially El Reno), and another one in Missouri.  CNN gave heavy coverage of what appeared to be a possibly castastrophic storm.  There were fatalities on I-40, but there may have been much less property damage than feared.  But the maps of Oklahoma on Friday night were terrifying, as the storm seemed to form a land hurricane with very low pressure.

Preliminary reports on the May 31 storm suggest that many of the deaths came from people trapped in cars, especially by flood waters.
I went out Friday night to clubs in Washington DC, and found randomly that about one-third of people knew from their smart phones that there was a dangerous storm outbreak in a different part of the country.
On Saturday, CNN continued coverage, and interviewed a woman who had driven from Houston to volunteer in Granbury or Cleburn TX (where some homes built by Habitat for Humanity were destroyed a few weeks ago by an EF-4), and now volunteered in Oklahoma.  The CNN reporter asked her, “don’t a lot of these people want their privacy?  Aren’t they pretty self-reliant”.  She answered that the social climate was friendly to people who really wanted to help – but not everyone really does.  But “it can happen to me.”

CNN says that a tornado warning can leave as little as 13 minutes to act.  If in a car, drive perpendicular to the path, don't try to outrun it.

The National Weather Service had actually issued a "tornado emergency warning" Friday because large tornadoes were approaching heaving populated areas.   
I recall that in some New Jersey shore areas after Sandy, police did not even allow drivers into the areas at all.  It could be hard to help, unless it’s organized.  The same is true of Breezy Point in Far Rockaway in Queens, NYC, where NYPD police have checkpoints.  But that community has made tremendous progress in rebuilding, pretty much on its own.  

Picture: Oklahoma countryside at I-35 rest-stop north of Red River, personal trip, Nov. 2011.  I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988 and am familiar with the whole area in some detail.  I also have ties to Kansas (KU).  

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