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Oklahoma tornadoes: OU's Merv Johnson 'was extremely lucky, but I wasn't very smart' with weather decisions

Oklahoma director of football operations Merv Johnson was driving back from a charity golf tournament during the tornado.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: May 22, 2013

Oklahoma director of football operations Merv Johnson started out making wise decisions on Monday — but later that same day, um, not so much.

          “I wasn't very smart,” Johnson admitted. “I was extremely lucky, but I wasn't very smart.”

          On Monday morning, Johnson participated in the Tulsa Sports Charities golf tournament at Oaks Country Club. A tornado had barely missed Norman the day before and Johnson was well-aware more severe weather was expected Monday.

“My son (Jeff) insisted that I call him at work and let him take a look at (weather radar on) his computer, which I did before I left,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘Right now, it looks like there's nothing going on. It's clear.'

“Going down the (Turner) turnpike, there were no problems at all, fairly bright, nothing threatening. About the time I turned south onto (Interstate-) 35, it started to sprinkle and within a couple of minutes, it was raining hard. Then I started getting hit with hailstones. Obviously, I was foolish. I should have had one of the local radio stations on, but I had satellite radio on or something.”

Still nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. Traffic flowed as usual.

“Everybody was just like me,” Johnson said. “We were sailing along pretty good in that heavy rain. Just before we got to Warren Theatre, it had quit pretty much, bright skies, high clouds.”

It actually was the calm before an EF-5 storm.

“I came on down into Moore and, man, a whole bunch of highway patrol were setting up on the access roads with their lights blinking and nobody pulled over,” Johnson said. “They were just sitting there. I was thinking, ‘That's weird.'

“I get on campus and see people on the streets looking up at the sky. I got to the stadium and one of the guys working construction said, ‘Did you know they just had a tornado on the ground in Moore?' I said, ‘No, and I just came through there.'

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