“The correct quote to me is ‘16 minutes to grab your life and save it.' ... Whether that's your child, your pet, your pictures, your wedding ring. That's why fleeing is a problem. How can you possibly grab your life in 16 minutes to save it? Can any of us do that? No, we can't.
“Fleeing, if you have time, and you have no place to go below ground, you have to flee to save your life. The problem is you can't grab your life in time to flee. That's why it's difficult to flee. Don't even think. Act! The thought process at that point is going to bog you down. You're trying to rationalize what is incomprehensible. You have to just act.”
Morgan said he knew he had to shake people up to get them to act quickly. As the tornado roared through Moore and south Oklahoma City, he said what was on his mind.
“I said this is three times worse than May 3rd. At one time, I said it was the costliest tornado in the history of the world,” he said, explaining he thinks the final estimates will place it more costly than the Joplin, Mo., tornado in May 2011.
“People came back and said you're getting backlash off that. I didn't say it again because I'm not here to upset people. But I am here to report what I see. If I can't figure it out now, being a fourth-generation Oklahoman and doing this since I was 10, I'll never be able to figure this out. I tend to call things like I see them.”
Morgan said his warnings days in advance were heeded by some viewers.
“I had quite a few emails from grandmothers and parents saying, we elected to keep our kids home today, Monday, because of what you've been talking about. And thank you for reaffirming so tragicly that was the correct decision. Of course, we can't say we do that all the time. If we did that all the time, the kids would be suspended for not going to school.”
As the rookie of the bunch with only seven months' experience as chief meteorologist, Lane has had to learn quickly how to cover tornadoes. Beside its size, the Monday tornado was even more difficult for him to cover because it was headed for his home in Moore.
“As the tornado got closer to Moore, then into Moore, that's when I really started to have this adrenaline rush that this is humongous, this is absolutely humongous,” said Lane, who grew up near Washington, D.C., and attended the University of North Carolina.
He texted his wife, who was driving on I-35 trying to get home, and a couple of his neighbors to “shelter now.” He said his wife was bitten by their dog as she grabbed it and jumped into the shelter, which Lane had put in only four months ago. He listed all the businesses in the line of the storm, including his favorite sushi restaurant and the Warren Theatre.
“My home did suffer some damage, but you go one street north of my home and it looks like a war zone, an absolute war zone.”
Lane said he was well prepared for the day with six of his 12 storm trackers stationed that day in Cleveland County.
“We had enough crews there and we certainly had pictures of the tornadoes coming in,” he said.
Lane said “adrenaline” helped him to get through the coverage of his first major tornado.
“I look back now and it feels like it was all just a blur. It all seemed to come and go so fast. I was watching the tornado go across the streets and I heard from people at the TV station that usually when there are tornadoes going through, there is a lot of commotion going on, everyone is trying to work hard to get a picture up. But what Paul (Folger) and Jess (Schambach), the anchors, said, it was dead silence. It was like you were in your zone, and no one could have done anything to get you out of it.”
Lane said he learned to be calm in handling the pressure of the situation from watching former KOCO chief meteorologist Rick Mitchell, who moved to Dallas station KXAS-TV.
“If you're calm, then the people watching you will stay calm,” he said. “You certainly don't want to be flipping out or freaking out. I learned that very well from Rick.”