Don't try to outrun tornadoes, Oklahoma City official advises
Once a tornado warning is issued, it's too late to flee, Oklahoma City's emergency manager says.
Freeways were at a standstill Friday evening as a storm system that spawned several tornadoes and torrential downpours churned through the metro area.
“We have people who call our office and ask, ‘Should I get in my car and try to outrun the tornado?' We do not recommend that,” Oklahoma City police Lt. Frank Barnes said Sunday.
The time to find shelter and relocate is after a tornado watch is issued and before severe weather — signified by a warning — is imminent, he said.
“We tell people that they need to shelter in place,” Barnes said.
That means a below-ground shelter, aboveground safe room or an interior room “as low as you can, with as many walls between you and the outside of the house as you can get,” he said.
Barnes said the worst place to be in a tornado is a vehicle.
Authorities counted several people, including a mother and baby and three storm chasers from Colorado, who were killed when their vehicles were caught in Friday's tornado in El Reno.
“What many times gets lost is the majority of tornadoes are EF3 or less,” Barnes said. “A well-built residential structure will provide survivable protection from an EF3 tornado or less.”
Friday's tornado in El Reno was given a preliminary rating of EF3 based on evidence of winds estimated at 156 mph.
The May 20 tornado that destroyed more than 1,200 homes in Oklahoma City and Moore was an EF5, with winds in excess of 200 mph.
William Crum, Staff Writer