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Norman Tornado Town Hall meeting puts new spin on weather safety

by Bryan Painter Published: September 9, 2012

The Tornado Town Hall project is led by Kim Klockow, of the OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; Randy Peppler, of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and Smith. Several other volunteers from the National Weather Center in Norman are involved.


Ila Faneros, of Norman, said for a long time she really didn't want to think about tornadoes hitting the city. That was before her son, Erik, was born 7 months ago. As a parent, she is more concerned about the possibility of a tornado.

“So I started looking into it,” Faneros said. “Norman didn't have tornadoes for a long time within the city limits and then they did have one, and so I was kind of curious because of all the myths I've heard about the burial grounds and the river. So I started doing some reading.”

She concluded one area of the Oklahoma City metro is as likely to get hit or not get hit as another.

Mike Simmons, who lives in south Oklahoma City, saw the devastation of the EF5 tornado May 3, 1999. He and his wife sought shelter in an area that wasn't hit. Their home sustained some damage and they were out of it for five months. But the storm destroyed other homes nearby and lives were lost.

During discussions at the meeting, Simmons said, “When you have the right mixture, you're going to have a tornado and its going to go anywhere it wants to go.”

Those attending the Tornado Town Hall were asked to fill out a form. The questions included ranking on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very low and 10 being very high, how tornado prone areas of Norman, Moore, Newcastle and central Oklahoma are, in their opinion.

Ryan Vaughn, of Norman, gave west Norman a 3. He said he wondered if a hill dropping off as it goes toward the Canadian River, “might mess with the wind patterns or something like that and make it more difficult for a tornado to maintain its shape.”

“That's sort of why I decided it was maybe a little less likely to be hit,” he said.

Peppler said if they are to serve the public in the most meaningful way possible, it is important to have some grasp of local thoughts about tornadoes.

“It is not our goal to dispel myths but to learn about what people know,” Peppler said, “including knowledge relating to particular places.”

That in turn will hopefully help those involved in weather-safety better communicate what they know, he said.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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