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Oklahoma tornadoes: Rare term used in Monday's storms

Once again, ‘tornado emergency' adds significance to the warning
by Bryan Painter Modified: May 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm •  Published: May 20, 2013

— Two men mentioned one rare phrase.

David Andra and Scott Curl, of the National Weather Service in Norman, were both working when an F5 tornado struck the Oklahoma City metro area May 3, 1999.

Andra, now the meteorologist in charge, and Curl, a senior forecaster, were also working Monday when a tornado of at least EF4 strength struck some of the same areas.

Curl was the warning forecaster on that F5 tornado in 1999 and again on Monday's storm.

Both times the rare term “tornado emergency” was used to warn the public of a dangerous, long-track tornado.

Monday, they used the regular warnings, but added this phrase to that. Curl and Andra both noted that distinction in wording.

“We used that the evening of the May 3rd because at the time it was an unprecedented event that we were looking at,” Curl said.

“We had a large, violent tornado on the ground about to head into the most populous center in the state of Oklahoma and we were trying to make people aware that this was something different than normal.

“We were trying to do anything that we could at that time to get people's attention.

And that's pretty much what we were doing again today, was trying to tell people this was as significant of an event as it possibly could be.

“Depending on what we said may have helped somebody make a decision that hopefully saved their life.”

Andra was the science and operations officer at the time of the tornado 14 years ago, and he helped coordinate the overall message and response for that storm.

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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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