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Traffic Talk: Driving into path of tornado is never a good idea

Don Gammill: Experts will tell you that if you are in the path of a tornado and there is a building nearby, get out of the car and seek shelter there. Also, you never know which direction a tornado might turn. Your vehicle could end up in a direct path.
by Don Gammill Published: April 22, 2013
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If you're an average Oklahoman and you've never gotten close to a tornado; be thankful. Certain things should be viewed from afar and these weather monsters are high on the list. We are in a part of the country that annually takes a hit.

Whether you are outside or inside, tornadoes can be dangerous and cause incredible devastation. They are sheer, uncontrolled power, capable of moving with deceptive speed.

For instance ...

Many years ago, when I was on the staff of the Enid News & Eagle, a particularly stormy night spawned several tornadoes in northwest Oklahoma. A photographer and I left Enid and traveled to Kingfisher County, where there was a report of a lightning strike causing a major fire at a gas plant near Lacey.

When we reached the scene, we learned there was no serious problem, just a flare burning off excess product after a lightning strike. So, we headed back toward Enid and into one of the darkest nights I ever had seen. That is, dark until lightning illuminated the sky. During one of those bright flashes, we noticed that we were headed for a flooded creek at the bottom of the small hill we had just crested.

We stopped to rethink our trip back to the office and were planning to turn around when through the wind we heard a loud, constant roar. We got out of the car to check it out and the sky lit up behind us. About two miles back (and it seemed much, much closer), a tornado was on the ground and heading our way.

We found the first dirt road that was headed away from the tornado and toward U.S. 81, and the photographer mashed the gas pedal into the floorboard. Safely back, we got an earful from the city editor, who had been trying to call us by two-way.

Another close call came a few years later after I joined The Oklahoman. My son and I were on a return trip to Edmond after taking my wife to Ponca City when her grandfather died. It was brewing up a big storm around us as we traveled Interstate 35 southbound.

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by Don Gammill
General Assignment Editor and Columnist
Don Gammill is general assignment editor and columnist. A native of Ponca City, he graduated from Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma). While in college, he was a sports stringer for The Oklahoma City Times....
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