Did Mike Morgan say drive away from tornado?

Mike Morgan, chief meteorologist at Oklahoma City’s KFOR Channel 4, is taking a lot of heat for telling people to drive away from Friday night’s tornadoes.

Did he or didn’t he? I suppose there’s room for misinterpretation. I suppose he could have meant drive south if you’re already in your car. After all, it was rush hour. The roads were already gridlocked with a combination of local and interstate traffic. Surely he knew this.

Personally, I’d have stayed home, sheltering in place. (Admittedly, if I were still a commuter there, I’d have been trying to get home, which was to the north.) You never want to be caught outside with tornadoes in the area. Longtime residents of central Oklahoma know this. (Of course, there are always newcomers who need instructions.)

Yet Morgan himself is a longtime resident. So what were people to think when he said “drive south” while the meteorologists at the other two major stations were saying “take cover indoors”? What was he thinking?

In this video, Morgan first says “go south” at about 1:15. Again at about 4:35 and 4:54. His most emphatic warning comes near the end, at about 8:45.

Then there’s this from his radio feed, which many people already on the road would have heard:

Eleven people died in the storm, most of them caught in their cars. Three were stormchasers.

What do you think? What would you have done if you’d been listening to Mike Morgan?



Categories: Media, Sci Tech, television, video content

7 replies

  1. While I don’t recall hearing quite so many times, I do remember being surprised when I did – particularly with clear radar indications of twisters forming on the southern edges of the storm. But hey, he could have been speaking to those already south of the threat. But, if that was the case, he could have also been a lot clearer about it!

    • At best it was very confusing. And people don’t need those guys giving confusing instructions. Instructions need to be crystal clear. And they always have been. Until Morgan started talking about driving somewhere. The only people who should have been trying to drive anywhere were those already on the road. And you can’t head south if you’re gridlocked on an east-west interstate, as those people were.

  2. He did say it. And on the air was a lot of confusion as to where the funnel was and which directions were safe to go….(then there’s the problem of roads: jammed and not available in the direction you need to go) What was he thinking?
    Not a good idea – but the old wisdom was to run perpendicular to a tornado..but you’ve got to know which way it’s going to do that?
    Car is not a good place to be.

    • Perpendicular to the storm is what I’ve always heard. But hard to do on a gridlocked interstate. Also have always heard to get out of your car and lie down in a culvert or get up into the girders under an overpass. I guess people kept hoping the traffic would move. Can’t imagine worse circumstances — caught on a gridlocked interstate with a tornado bearing down on you.

  3. I have lived through this experience a few times. It is frightening and chaotic. After having experienced it personally I can assure you that his intentions were to get to safety as quickly as possible. Althought he may not have clearly specified this the advice to drive out of the way was given for those unable to get underground. Anyone living in OK, KS, MO ect is familiar with this situation.

    I read many comments of the residents in OK on other sites and to them it was exceptionally clear that the advie was to get to safety because this was a killer tornado. The technology available gives the meterologist the ability to track the tornadic winds block by block. Unfortunatly the timing of the storm meant the highway was filled with cars unable to move quickly enough to outrun th advancing storm and several were caught in thier cars. Who can say they were there because they misunderstood the advice he was giving.

    Honestly I can only believe anyone who heard this broadcast and believed it was in thier best interest to get in a car and drive south when they had other accomadations underground would have been naive. However, if no underground shelter was available, then trying to ride out that type of storm inside a typical house is more dangerous then most can comprehend. His advice was to find someone, a neighbor or what ever to get to underground shelter. if you had to drive it was better odds than not trying to find shelter.

    The fact of truth here is he saved more lives than could possibly be counted and most of the people focusing on the drive south comments are looking for someone to blame. The reality is, these storms are dangerous. And if you live in the area prone to severe weather, learn the risks.

    • I can see how his remarks might have been a little confusing to someone new to the area and/or new to tornado safety procedures. But anyone who has lived there for a while (I lived there for almost 60 years) knows OKC has the most knowledgeable meteorologists in the country when it comes to tornadoes.

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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke

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