Bad Tornado Advice Endangers Lives; Weatherman in Hot Water

Friday, 07 Jun 2013 01:56 PM

By Ken Mandel

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An Oklahoma meteorologist is being heavily criticized for tornado viewers he gave Friday that placed many lives in danger.

KFOR's Mike Morgan, an 11-time weather broadcast award winner in Oklahoma, told viewers Friday to get in their cars and drive south from Oklahoma City, away from an approaching twister. That advice clogged roads and put motorists at significant risk, as a massive storm bore down on the surrounding area, according to a Reuters report.

Gov. Mary Fallin called the situation a "nightmare," compounded when people also left work early to stay ahead of rush-hour traffic.

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"Irresponsible reporting of that kind is unconscionable in my mind," Ernst Kiesling, research professor at Texas Tech's National Wind Institute, told Reuters. "You have the responsibility to give more than your off-the-cuff opinions."

Twenty people died from tornadoes and flooding from Friday's storms, the Oklahoma medical examiner's office said Wednesday.

Some victims were pulled from cars and some vehicles blown off roads, Fallin said.

This was the second deadly attack by nature in two weeks. On May 20, a twister leveled sections of the suburb of Moore. One of the Friday tornadoes was the widest ever recorded in the U.S., at 2.6 miles, the National Weather Service said.

Morgan began his broadcast by telling viewers to seek cover in a storm cellar, shelter or safe place below ground, but erred when he said, "If you can leave South Oklahoma City and go south do it now."

Cassandra Donnelly of Oklahoma City listened. While stuck in traffic, she told Reuters that she saw cars driving in the opposite direction, and ignoring stop signs. Scared, she eventually pulled off the road.

"I told my mom and my sister to keep praying. The rain was horizontal," Donnelly said. "We were pushed forward twice."

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KFOR said Morgan is on vacation until Thursday, but said in a Wednesday statement: "After every major storm, we review our coverage and the many things that make each weather event unique, for the purpose of improving our coverage and our ability to forecast."


Related stories:

Three Storm Chasers Among 10 Killed by Oklahoma Tornado


Charities See Influx of Donations for Oklahoma Tornado Victims

Massive Twister Slams Oklahoma City


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