Round Two: Deadly Tornadoes Again Take Aim at Central Oklahoma

A mere 11 days after a massive tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma, another enormous storm produced a series of tornadoes that swept through the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Initially tracking northeast the evening of May 31, 2013, the tornadic thunderstorm suddenly turned south, catching motorists and stormchasers alike by surprise. Officials warned people to avoid traveling, even as television meteorologists urged people to try to get away from the storm if they couldn't find a safe place to hide.     As people tried to escape the oncoming storm, interstates and roadways already jammed with rush-hour traffic became parking lots and motorists were trapped in their vehicles - one of the worst places to be in a tornado, according to officials. Vickie, the daughter of a Norman rancher, initially assumed the north-bound storm posed no threat to her plans to travel to Guthrie Friday evening to attend a wedding. Leaving her teen daughters at home, Vickie went ahead with her plans, only to begin receiving a stream of desperate texts from her storm-wary youngest daughter who had taken refuge in a cellar with her father and grandparents. “I felt so bad that I had left them. It was terrible that I couldn’t go back home to be with them.”
The day after: many roads remained flooded in low-lying areas ©Lyann Valadez

The day after: many roads remained flooded in low-lying areas ©Lyann Valadez

Vickie took refuge in a cellar at the wedding venue in Guthrie, and her friends urged her to stay with them after the storm had passed and not travel the then-flooded roads. But Vickie insisted on leaving. “No way was I not going home.” The roads had largely cleared of travelers by the time she began to make her way home, although she had to detour from her usual route because many of the roads were flooded. A woman named Stacy, the owner of a Norman hair salon, had left work early to have dinner with a friend in south Oklahoma City. “I was standing in the kitchen and [he] yelled ‘we have to leave NOW!’. I had just enough time to turn off the stove before we ran out the door.” The friends planned to drive south, away from the tornado bearing down on the house, but the roads were jammed with other people with the same plans. “We didn’t have any choice but to go west.” By then the tornado had passed to the east, and the two friends took shelter underneath a bridge to escape the pouring rain and pounding hail.   About the jammed roads, Stacy pointed out that for many people there simply was no other choice but to leave their homes. Putting it bluntly she stated “when a tornado is taking aim at your house…you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” The May 31st tornadoes proved deadly; five people lost their lives, and all had been caught on the roads while trying to escape the storms. Storm chasers lamented that meteorologists had urged people to try to outrun the tornadoes and more than one chaser found themselves recalling harrowing encounters with the tornadoes and straight-line winds.   Coming less than two weeks after an F-5 tornado with 210 mile-per-hour winds devastated Moore, just south of Oklahoma City, this latest tornado emergency didn’t hit with the same force, but it does serve as a reminder of the dangers of getting caught by a tornado while driving. With more severe weather in the forecast, authorities are warning people to avoid using their cars to escape another tornado emergency.

Update:

On Sunday, June 2, 2013, The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner increased the death toll from Friday night's storms to 10. Three storm chasers were among the fatalities: Tim Samaras, 55, leading storm chaser and founder of tornado research company Twistex; Tim's son, Paul, 24; and Carl Young, 45, a Twistex meteorologist.
Picture from News 9 in Oklahoma City of Tim Samaras's truck. via Nick Hurst ‏@ALStormChaser

Picture from News 9 in Oklahoma City of Tim Samaras's truck.
via Nick Hurst ‏@ALStormChaser

  Again, authorities are warning people to avoid using their cars to escape another tornado emergency.  

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