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May 20, 2013 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Several Hours ago a massive tornado hit the town of Moore Oklahoma. The tornado is now being estimated by some sources to be to be an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This means winds at or over 200 mph as well as a damage area of close to 30 square miles.

Excellent live coverage is being done by NBC channel 4 and the raw network feed is here.

At least two elementary schools were hit and unfortunately numerous fatalities are expected from the schools. Damage and casualties from this tornado are being compared to the disastrous 1999 Oklahoma tornadoes
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena (373 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Be warned - while all the coverage is heartbreaking, the raw network feed is an entirely different level of heartbreak.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:54 PM on May 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Safeandwell.org is a Red Cross site that allows people to check in as well in a tragedy like this and also allows you to check to see if somebody you're concerned about is well (assuming they've checked in).

Here is a link to the OKC Red Cross in case you want to make a donation.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope all of our Oklahoma MeFites are safe and sound. Please check in over in MetaTalk!
posted by ambrosia at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


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posted by klausness at 5:03 PM on May 20, 2013


Two MILES wide, oh my word. I can't even imagine how terrifying that must be.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2013


I can't tell from the coverage, were the schools actually in session when this happened?
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2013


Metatalk thread ambrosia mentioned.

Jessamyn writes over there (bracket comments are mine):
I know it's sort of weird to split the discussion, but if we could keep this thread [the Metatalk thread] to being mostly check-in and drop links and other discussion stuff in the other thread [this thread], that would be helpful. Not mission critical, but helpful.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2013


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posted by scody at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2013


What a nightmare. I am glad at least that all the students from the Briarwood school have been accounted for, and am praying and thinking of everyone still missing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2013


Absolutely heartbreaking. Those poor kids.
posted by carter at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2013


Update: Briarwood kids are all accounted for. They're all ok.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


the raw network feed is an entirely different level of heartbreak

I had to close the tab when the guy at the Plaza Towers Elementary school was talking about the kids there. Those poor kids.
posted by ambrosia at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2013


.

for those who didn't make it and for those who did, stay strong. I just can't imagine. I have kids in NC who go through tornado drills and it's horrible to think that it might not protect them in a scenario like this.
posted by freecellwizard at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by drezdn at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2013


I can't tell from the coverage, were the schools actually in session when this happened?

I don't know if they were in session, but they were certainly full of staff and children. The Weather Channel is reporting that two dozen children at least are presumed dead in one of the schools. Horrifyingly, seven of them drowned.

Looking at the pictures, it makes those tornado drills we always went through in school seem a little ridiculous. What's the point of crouching down against the hallway walls when there aren't any walls left?
posted by something something at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2013


KFOR in Oklahoma City reporting that Plaza Towers Elementary is now a recovery mission with 20-30 children presumed dead.
posted by Dojie at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2013


Jesus Fucking Christ. I inadvertently had the Weather Channel on while working yesterday and caught the big wedge tornado in OK live as it happened, and the WC severe storm guys sounded pretty certain this morning that it was going to be another scary day, but this is just horrific. Hope all Oklahoma MeFites and nonMeFites are as well as possible.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:09 PM on May 20, 2013


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posted by percor at 5:09 PM on May 20, 2013


Felonious, when I was watching earlier they said the school had been put in lockdown right before the tornado hit.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:12 PM on May 20, 2013


fuck. the news is looking for parents of children at hospitals.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:12 PM on May 20, 2013


What an unbelievable tragedy. I wonder how much warning they had, if any?
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:13 PM on May 20, 2013


tulsa news has been saying that the older students had been moved to what ended up being a safer location, but the k-2 students were still mostly there...
posted by nadawi at 5:13 PM on May 20, 2013


Freecellwizard, my husband remembers as a child being in a school when a tornado hit, blowing the doors off the school. Having experienced those ridiculous drills myself as a child, I can't even imagine.

Those poor parents.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2013


I wonder how much warning they had, if any?

They had some tornadoes yesterday too and, on the live feed, I heard them mentioning that the weatherman had been telling people to get underground or they wouldn't be safe all morning. Even with a warning, though, a tornado is a merciless thing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2013


If you don't have any sense of how powerful an EF-5 is, please note that the scale only goes up to 5.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:15 PM on May 20, 2013


The latest report is that 7 children have perished and 30 more missing. Very sad news this evening.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2013


news I heard indicated a very long warning, about 15 minutes.

EF-5 tops out at "total destruction" so there is no way for a mythical EF-6 to exist...
posted by supermedusa at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


MSNBC is reporting they had warning as of last Wednesday that there was a chance for a huge tornado, and that Oklahoma has been on alert since then.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2013


If you're on Facebook, Oklahoma Nation has been posting regular updates.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:19 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by humanfont at 5:19 PM on May 20, 2013


One of the weather reports said they went from relatively clear skies to F5 in under an hour, very little warning - and almost no way to protect from an F5.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2013


I'm actually amazed at how much the technology enabling the earliest possible warnings has progressed in recent years. Yesterday, between the radar and the aerial photography, you could see the circulation building up and the funnel forming as it happened -- astounding. The problem with an EF-5 is that unless you have a deep-ass hole somewhere to get into, all the prep time in the world won't help.

And the news just reported that several people drowned in the school basement.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why do schools in OK not have underground storm shelters?
posted by anastasiav at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


even with warning, there's not much to be done. there are very few publicly available storm shelters (we've been told to go to walmart in our honestly pretty well off town), you don't want to out run it in a car. you basically just hold your pants and hope it hits somewhere unpopulated. The drills are useful in strong winds and less severe tornadoes, but 2 miles wide and through a heavily populated area...well, like i said, not much to be done.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Two miles wide sounds more like a small hurricane than a tornado. Is that the width of the funnel where it touches down, or the spinning clouds at the top?

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posted by b1tr0t at 5:22 PM on May 20, 2013


Why do schools in OK not have underground storm shelters?

They turn out to be an issue because of the soil there.
posted by MissySedai at 5:24 PM on May 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 5:25 PM on May 20, 2013


I lived in Kansas for a while when I was a child. We had tornado warnings all the time. The recommended protocol was that you went down into the basement and waited the thing out. One time we had a "severe tornado warning". I was down in the basement with my little sister, and I told her "I have to see this thing." She told me not to do it, but I went upstairs and opened the front door.

Four or five giant black funnels arching down between the sky and the ground. Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Incredible wind. Black skies. I will never forget those funnels. They scared the shit out of me. We were lucky that they didn't hit their home. And that was nowhere close to an EF-5.

I don't believe in God, but God help those people.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:26 PM on May 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


The guesstimated width of a tornado is typically how wide its destructive path is -- the dangerous winds extend well beyond the visible funnel and debris cloud.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:26 PM on May 20, 2013


The drills are useful in strong winds and less severe tornadoes, but 2 miles wide and through a heavily populated area...well, like i said, not much to be done.

I did those drills every year as a kid in NC and hated them, but this is worth noting; in a lot of situations those drill procedures really are helpful. They might seem silly in this kind of tornado, but this is (obviously) a really unusual tornado. It's like boarding up your windows before a hurricane; it makes sense most of the time, even if there are storms that will level your house, boards and all.

I've been close to a tornado (across a parking lot) and it was the scariest moment of my life; I lived in hurricane country for years and they don't really phase me unless I'm near the water, until there's a tornado warning.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:26 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


the reason for few underground shelters is what FelliniBlank just said...7 died in the basement. the water table is only a couple feet down, and yeah, the soil. it's difficult to get affordable, reliable, accessible shelters and even then, finding one that withstands something this catastrophic is asking a lot.
posted by nadawi at 5:27 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mother, her brother, and my grandfather survived the 1957 Fargo tornado by smashing the front window of a furniture shop and hiding under the sale mattresses. It can happen so fast. I hope that people heeded the warnings, such as they were. I can't imagine being in a place like Oklahoma, with its history of strong tornadoes, and casually dismissing a warning.

37 fatalities confirmed.

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posted by Elly Vortex at 5:27 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


we have been warned that the storms will be getting worse and worse as our planet heats up.....we are all sitting in a Petri dish being heated on a Bunsen burner
posted by robbyrobs at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


As bad as Sandy and other hurricanes are, I'll take those any day over something like this. Very, very glad tornados aren't too common in NYC!
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:31 PM on May 20, 2013


i don't know anyone who casually dismisses a tornado warning here. but - there's only so much to be done. we're on the third/top floor of an apartment with a wall of windows on one side. the closest thing to a storm shelter is walmart - and we're not going to leave our cat at home - so if a warning happens we pile into the bathroom and pull our giant sumosacs over us and hope for the best.
posted by nadawi at 5:31 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, I grew up in Oklahoma and this is like watching my worst childhood fears (short of cold-war nuclear apocalypse) play out. The worst-case disaster that probably never would -- but still could -- happen. Those poor people and especially those poor kids. I can't stop thinking of the terror they must have felt.

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posted by treepour at 5:32 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah, blaneyphoto I was in New Jersey for Sandy (inland, luckily) and the wind was pretty freaky but I CANNOT imagine something like this...
posted by supermedusa at 5:33 PM on May 20, 2013


This is pretty much exactly why, given the choice, I'll gladly stick with earthquakes over tornadoes. Outright terrifying.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:33 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just can't believe what I'm hearing from this school site via the live local feed at KFOR. A teacher found dead, shielding two children under her. Several children found together, drowned.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:34 PM on May 20, 2013


OK, this is awful, but can someone explain to me how you would drown in a tornado?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:35 PM on May 20, 2013


a fiendish thingy: "Two MILES wide, oh my word. I can't even imagine how terrifying that must be."

Yeah, no kidding. I hate to trivialize this real event by referencing a movie, but I can't help but think of Twister's description of an F5 as "the finger of god."

This shit's terrifying.
posted by brundlefly at 5:35 PM on May 20, 2013



OK, this is awful, but can someone explain to me how you would drown in a tornado?


Sheltering in basement + broken water mains.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013


It could continue to be a godawful night -- I'm not sure what the "future radar" models look like now, but this morning, Oklahoma City was at the far western edge of the predicted hellish area; they were showing that western Arkansas might get some apocalyptic late-night storms. "Tornado in the dark" is one of my hugest fears.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


drown in a tornado

Flooding is common in tornados. They come with rain, they shove water around, and in OK, the water table is high, so basements fill up both from the foundation. and through any windows.
posted by donnagirl at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The images are horrific.

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posted by never used baby shoes at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013


can someone explain to me how you would drown in a tornado?

It rains, too, sometimes a lot. You can see a deeply flooded parking lot in the buzzfeed photo set.
posted by elizardbits at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, I grew up in Oklahoma and this is like watching my worst childhood fears (short of cold-war nuclear apocalypse) play out.

Same for me. I can't stop thinking about all the tornado drills we did in elementary school. Even that young we knew the school we went to wasn't good for tornadoes. No interior spaces without windows. It's impossible to not identify with those kids and how scared they must have been.

Sad day.
posted by double bubble at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Swapped in a working network feed in the post per OP request]
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 PM on May 20, 2013


OK, this is awful, but can someone explain to me how you would drown in a tornado?

Just guessing but there is a lake just to the south of the school.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:39 PM on May 20, 2013


Joey: [Discussing at Meg's on the tornadoes they have seen so far] No, that was a good size twister. What was it, an F3?
Bill: Solid F2.
Melissa: See, now you have lost me again.
Bill: It's the Fujita scale. It measures a tornado's intensity by how much it eats.
Melissa: Eats?
Bill: Destroys.
Laurence: That one we encountered back there was a strong F2, possibly an F3.
Beltzer: Maybe we'll see some 4's.
Haynes: That would be sweet!
Bill: 4 is good. 4 will relocate your house very efficently.
Melissa: Is there an F5?
[Everyone goes dead silent]
Melissa: What would that be like?
Jason 'Preacher' Rowe: The Finger of God.
posted by w0mbat at 5:39 PM on May 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yeah, no kidding. I hate to trivialize this real event by referencing a movie, but I can't help but think of Twister's description of an F5 as "the finger of god."

Overall Twister wasn't a great movie. But as a reenactment of what Oklahoma feels like during a storm...pretty darn accurate. Particularly the opening scene. It was realistic enough to bring back all the feelings from my childhood - tight feeling in the chest, scared, dread, verge of tears, all of it.
posted by double bubble at 5:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Someone over at Wunderground just timelined it, and there was only 3 or 4 minutes between the time the radar made the tornado clearly and unambiguously out to be a monster and it hitting the Plaza Towers school.

From New Orleans, seconding give me a hurricane any damn day compared to this.

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posted by localroger at 5:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


.

One of my earliest memories is of a night a tornado jumped my neighborhood at 9 at night. I remember it, despite being just under two years old, quite vividly. To this day, I have a shivering fear of thunder (quite embarrassing as an adult), and that sound still comes up in my nightmares.

I barely missed being in the set that hit downtown Atlanta a few years ago, and those storms scared me so much I was hiding under my bed.

I cannot imagine what these kids have been through.
posted by strixus at 5:45 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


short of cold-war nuclear apocalypse

Actually if you look at the area and the scale of destruction this tornado has done a very passable imitation of a large hydrogen bomb. Minus the fallout, but not minus much else.
posted by localroger at 5:47 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a lot of family in OKC (on the north side of town, all seem to be OK) and the horror of twisters is something we grew up with. When I was about 6 or 7 we had a small tornado skip our home while tapping the two on either side. That was, needless to say, scary. But something this size is simply impossible to fathom.
posted by michswiss at 5:48 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to live in Dallas, TX and I remember having tornado drills in my elementary school. Everyone crowding into the hallways and crouching with our heads tucked down facing the wall. I never saw the point but sometimes the appearance of doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

My thoughts and prayers with all those who have been impacted.
posted by Fizz at 5:48 PM on May 20, 2013


Sheltering in basement + broken water mains.

The weather guy said his warning was "if you're not underground, you're not safe." Obviously you're not very safe underground either.

I know the feeling of running for the storm cellar. I just found a school report about the May 1968 Tornado Outbreak that I wrote for science class when I was a little kid. It's full of newspaper clippings from the destroyed cities of Oelwein and Charles City, both were hit by an F5. And then there are clippings about a tornado that skipped right over my town, but dropped baseball sized hail. I think I'll scan it and put it online as a memorial to the dozens who died in the outbreak.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:48 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know the words get thrown around a lot - I can't imagine - but here, with this, I really can't. There is nothing in my experience, nothing I have read or watched, that compares to this. Maybe (and the new-comment load shows localroger's just made the comparison too) an atomic bomb. That's the only comparison I have and I still, still, cannot imagine.

localroger: give me a hurricane any damn day compared to this.

From Florida, thirded.

I really cannot imagine. I hope I never have to. And I hope the death toll stops right the hell here, I hope everyone else is okay.
posted by cmyk at 5:50 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main problem with being underground is when the stuff that isn't underground gets ripped up and dropped on top of you, which appears to be what happened at the school.
posted by localroger at 5:50 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


i was 9 or 10 when i got the closest i've been to a tornado. the house that was on the next farm over got leveled. we were in a rickety house my uncle (not a professional) built. my family of 10 crammed into our hallway, covered in mattresses and pillows, older kids huddling younger kids, listening to the patchy radio service. once we got the all clear we stepped outside to find the storm still in the green sky calm part - before the rains kick up again - and the air had a smell i'll never forget.
posted by nadawi at 5:51 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Live press conference now, online.
posted by donnagirl at 5:52 PM on May 20, 2013


They're putting national guard helicopters in the air as soon as possible. With infrared cameras. To look for heat. Which is a pretty good sign, they're expecting to find people alive.
posted by bilabial at 5:53 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was 3 years old and living in Ohio when the Super Outbreak hit in 1974. I don't remember much about it but a tornado passed close by our house. I do remember seeing trashcans go flying - literally flying - past our kitchen window. Fortunately the house was not badly damaged and nobody got hurt. My father found cancelled cheques in our yard from the destroyed bank in Xenia, 60 miles away.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:55 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That same storm just reached us. The elevation is higher here and that seems to mitigate the risk somewhat, but we do still get tornadoes. My house has no basement and no central rooms so the best I can do is a comforter in the bathtub.
posted by sourwookie at 5:55 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


More of these will happen, more moisture from warmer oceans, can't change the effect of the air coming off the higher plains colliding with the gulf air. Need new safety codes, something to make better survival odds for those just out and about, this time in the daytime no way to react, can't load kids in buses, homes all over to try and get to, parents at work, the fear must have been off the chart.

No way to know if the pattern of the "alley" location will expand due to more moisture effects.

I will wager when the re-build happens they do not underground the power lines, we never seem to do that much. Sad.
posted by Freedomboy at 5:55 PM on May 20, 2013


Ugh. 20 to 30 kids they can't get to because of the debris.
posted by bilabial at 5:57 PM on May 20, 2013


I grew up in tornado country, and I am as tornado-phobic as I am snake-phobic because of where I grew up. Tornado drills caused mini-panic-attacks in me as a kid. And when the protocol changed from backs up against lockers to heads up against lockers (and therefore backs exposed), it got really scary.

The Granbury tornado last week was headed right at my parents' house. It turned south just before getting to them. This is scary shit, and I'm sorry for all the folks in Oklahoma who will be going through a recovery process.

An interesting thing that came out of the Granbury thing, though: The coworker with the office next-door to mine grew up in Napa (40 miles away from where I live now) but has spent time in Texas. We talked about how, when I grew up in Texas, I knew exactly what to do in a tornado. Still do. When she grew up in California, she knew exactly what to do in an earthquake.

If nothing else, we're pretty good at teaching kids what to do in the event of our most likely natural disasters. Or at least we were 30 years ago.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:57 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


And like clockwork a facebook "friend" proceeds to blame the victims for their poor judgement of living there in the first place and not building indestructible houses.

*sigh*
posted by GuyZero at 5:59 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was on the 9th floor of a building in downtown Nashville when an F3 tornado rolled through the city in 1998. It was a mile wide. As we looked out the window, we weren't even sure what was coming at us... it looked like fog rolling in. When we saw the transformers on electrical poles exploding, and signs blowing over, we figured it out and ran for the stairwell. It was one of my more frightening moments (and this was the second tornado I had been through). I can't imagine riding out an F5. Terrifying.
posted by kimdog at 6:01 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Redditor picture taken after driving away two miles with their dog.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:01 PM on May 20, 2013


GuyZero - that attitude is pissing me off so much. i know i'm frayed and looking for an outburst -but, fuck, like we haven't considered ways to make this less awful.
posted by nadawi at 6:02 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The KFOR feed has been very good so far, no shoving mics into peoples' faces to ask them how they feel.
posted by carter at 6:02 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


We were driving through Oklahoma today, and left home about an hour later than planned, for which I am so grateful, as we were an hour away when the storm hit. We pulled over for the night in a town about 30 min away and everyone here is pretty shaken up. The hotels and restaurants are full of other travelers who pulled off of i35 and everyone is full of the camaraderie that seems to come from being close to a disaster.
posted by girl scientist at 6:03 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


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posted by Wordshore at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2013


With infrared cameras. To look for heat. Which is a pretty good sign, they're expecting to find people alive.

Not really. They've switched from rescue to recovery mode, which means they expect to to find bodies rather than survivors. They bring out the IR because hey, nighttime, and like with that woman in Bangladesh they might get a miracle.

The KFOR feed has been very good so far

Most of the crew went through this same thing in 1999.
posted by localroger at 6:05 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


GuyZero that seems like an excellent opportunity to unfriend someone.

My heart is breaking for those parents.
posted by emjaybee at 6:05 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Facebook page for updates.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:05 PM on May 20, 2013


The thing that's most terrifying to me is that one of the meterologists was saying to get in your car and go if you couldn't get underground. I've lived most of my life in Kansas, ducked into basements for a handful of tornados, and never, ever, has anyone suggested that you'd be safer trying to run. Basically, that suggests he could see all bets were off and nothing they'd been taught to do to stay safe applied at all.
posted by donnagirl at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


51 confirmed dead now, as of live feed. :(
posted by mudpuppie at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2013


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posted by crush-onastick at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2013


Awful. The poor parents of those kids; it's beyond my ability to comprehend what they must be going through. Especially since US schools are usually so well-built; you figure they're safe there in exactly this kind of situation.

I grew up in earthquake country but my mom started moving around from one tornado area to another when I was about 9; I'd much rather have the quakes. The trouble I have with tornadoes is that you're just as powerless, but you have more time to contemplate it before the horrible part starts - I used to hope that if I died in an earthquake, it'd be at night asleep. Tornadoes always wake you up. I have vague memories of Loma Prieta (mostly about how freaked out I was that day,) but I will never be able to get the destruction and terror of the Texas tornadoes I lived through a year or two later out of my head. It's also incredibly random, actually. Very much like being at the mercy of a vengeful omnipotent power.

At work we have a basement we have to go down to every time there's a significant storm; I can absolutely see us all drowning there (it's less than 200 yards from this river, though supposedly they put in flood control that should prevent it.) At home I hide in a closet.
posted by SMPA at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2013


Starting to look more and more like John Barnes' 1994 novel Mother of Storms.
posted by Justinian at 6:10 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have family all over the OKC metroplex area, and they're all accounted for tonight, but it was close for several of them. My heart just absolutely breaks for parents who couldn't get to their children. I can't even imagine the panic and sorrow.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


tight feeling in the chest, scared, dread, verge of tears, all of it

I spent some summers when I was a kid with my grandma who lived outside Chicago. I'd hear the weather reports and see the sky turn that green-black and I'd be down in the basement like a shot. My grandmother would sit on the stoop and spit watermelon seeds onto the walkway.
posted by rtha at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


When I was living in Salina KS last year we had three funnel clouds go over my town from separate supercells. One was a mile wide and if it had touched down it would have gone right into my house. I spent most of that evening with a bottle of burbon and my dogs in the basement, watching the wind-sheer radar update and listening for the sound of an approaching freight train. Thankfully there was basically zero damage.
posted by hellojed at 6:12 PM on May 20, 2013


51 confirmed dead now, as of live feed. :(

I really want this to be like other recent news situations where, tomorrow morning, the number is way down. Sadly, I don't think that's going to be the case here. Fuck.
posted by drezdn at 6:13 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And like clockwork a facebook "friend" proceeds to blame the victims for their poor judgement of living there in the first place and not building indestructible houses.

On a couple of the feeds on G+, people are hollering "Stop talking about this! You need to start praying!"

Me, I'm in favor of talking about it, spreading information, and ACTUALLY helping.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Or text FOOD to 32333 to donate $10 to the Oklahoma Food Bank. Hell, DO BOTH. I'm not a fan of the Salvation Army and their discriminatory bullshit, but I suppose you could text GIVE to 80888 to make a $10 donation.

Make arrangements to have things like household gloves, trash bags, buckets, cleaning supplies, dust masks, shovels, boots, soap and other toiletries (TOILET PAPER!), bottled water, etc. delivered to :

News 9 Studio
7401 North Kelley Ave
Oklahoma City, 73111

If you order through Amazon and have Amazon Prime, choose the Two Day Free Shipping for anything that's Prime Eligible. I've already done text donations, and have a cart at Amazon, waiting for payday.
posted by MissySedai at 6:13 PM on May 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


I did a lot of theoretical work on this ca. 2006-2008 because I got Katrina'd and was planning to move north, but my wife was (perhaps quite sensibly) afraid of tornadoes so I promised to build her a tornado proof house.

Wind pressure on a structure goes up as the fourth power of wind speed. This means the PSI exerted by a windstream is sixteen times stronger if you double the wind speed. At 200 MPH it is approaching non-fractional pounds per square inch. Such a wind entering a building through an open window can pressurize the structure from within and blow it up like a balloon.

And there is nothing known to material science, no matter how much money you are willing to throw at it, that can protect you from the debris thrown by such wind. In the early days of nuclear power plans were drawn to design containment buildings that could survive a telephone pole thrown at 200 MPH. In the final designs this was reduced to a 4x4x8 beam, because when the engineers did the math, surviving the telephone pole simply wasn't practical.

I had a pretty good design before the housing market collapsed and I realized I was overreacting anyway, but it would have been as effective as a tent of tissue paper against a storm like this. Most tornadoes are EF1 and most of the rest are EF2. That you can protect against. This, not so much.
posted by localroger at 6:14 PM on May 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


This is unbelievably awful.

.
posted by homunculus at 6:16 PM on May 20, 2013


A reporter from an okc station was just on CNN and expressed well what I had been thinking...the fact that this happened during the day makes for so much more chaos. Kids at school, parents at work, people running errands.
posted by double bubble at 6:20 PM on May 20, 2013


There's another weird cultural phenomenon here, which is the dedicated viewing of the aftermath, which I grew up with. Any time a damaging storm went through when I was growing up, and it was determined that we were safe, we spent the rest of the day/evening watching the news coverage. I think it's a "but for the grace of god" thing, but I don't really know. What I know is that I'm certainly predisposed to it -- and have been for a long time, waaaay before the Boston bombings, which is when I think it clicked for a lot of people. But my parents are as well; I know they've been watching this coverage all afternoon. (Mom said as much.)

I don't know if that's a familial phenomenon, or a regional one, or a human, one, but it fascinates me that it fascinates me.

posted by mudpuppie at 6:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


something something: "Looking at the pictures, it makes those tornado drills we always went through in school seem a little ridiculous. What's the point of crouching down against the hallway walls when there aren't any walls left?"

The biggest danger during a tornado is flying debris. Tornado drills in schools get the kids away from the windows (and ideally into a place with a reinforced ceiling, since wide-span flat roofs will rip right off if a tornado comes down next to it). I have been in/near several smaller tornadoes while in school, from grade school through college, and the key point is really to stay away from windows and protect your head and neck. MOST OF THE TIME, the biggest danger is the debris the tornado picks up and flings around, including through windows. I've been in a couple of buildings that sustained damage during a storm and just sitting in the basement or an interior hallway or stairwell was perfectly adequate to protect the PEOPLE from being hurt.

With an F5, especially one this insanely large, that formed THIS FAST ... there's just not a whole lot to do, like in a large earthquake. You build with it in mind and do drills to prepare, but all the preparation in the world can't protect you from everything.

This is a crazy storm, I'm a couple states over and it just blew in, and it came in SO FAST we were running outside in the approaching lightning to secure trashcans and move cars out from under trees. It was sunny and then it was dark as night, and my sinuses now feel as if they are being stabbed repeatedly from the very sudden change in pressure. I will probably sit up tonight until the line of storms finishes blowing through, because -- yeah -- tornadoes in the dark are my worst fear.

(I expect we will be fine, the system has lost some of its wrath, and we have a full basement and live half a block from the tornado siren so even if we lose power I'll have plenty of warning. It will just be a tree-branch-throwing thunderstorm for me probably, so don't anybody worry for me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


donnagirl: "The thing that's most terrifying to me is that one of the meterologists was saying to get in your car and go if you couldn't get underground. I've lived most of my life in Kansas, ducked into basements for a handful of tornados, and never, ever, has anyone suggested that you'd be safer trying to run. Basically, that suggests he could see all bets were off and nothing they'd been taught to do to stay safe applied at all."

Yes, I heard a meteoroloist talking about this and he said he couldn't remember ever hearing someone (seriously) suggest just driving the hell away if you didn't have an underground shelter.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


We've had more and more tornadoes in our neck of the woods in Florida over the past few years. I was on-site for work in a run-down, decades old Dept. of Agriculture trailer when one took the roof off a high school within sight of our trailer. That storm was nothing compared to this one, but it just seemed to come out of nowhere. It's terrifying and awful how much worse and more common these kinds of major weather disasters are becoming--and those poor kids! I just keep thinking about how scared they must have been.

.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2013


I've seen this posted around a bit, and have confirmed it.

If you are in the OKC area or are within a couple of hours drive, have medical qualifications equal to or exceeding a nursing certificate, a BLS cert, or are a doctor, are NOT needed in your own community, and are capable of responding to the OKC area to help with today's tornado and storms in the near future, please go to OKMRC.org and plug in your information. DO NOT SELF DEPLOY. WAIT TO BE ACTIVATED.
posted by SpecialK at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is awful, and heartbreaking. :(
posted by zarq at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2013


My university was hit by an F3 and it was a wreck. I can't comprehend the power of an F5.

.
posted by Woodroar at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2013


The drowning in the basement reminds me a lot of similar drownings during TS Allison in Houston, which has a similar water table problem, since it's built on a swamp. In tornado country, that's far worse, though, because where can you go when it hits?

.
posted by immlass at 6:25 PM on May 20, 2013


the fact that this happened during the day makes for so much more chaos

On the one hand, yes, totally.

On the other, the scariest thing I have ever seen in a movie is the scene in Twister where the tornado comes at night and rips through the drive-in movie screen.

I can hardly bear to read the coverage of this. But if it's useful, an OKC news station has put a bunch of their videos up on youtube.
posted by rtha at 6:25 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This footage is amazing.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


a few years ago, someone posted on the blue a cell phone recording of a tornado made by someone who was in a walkin fridge in a store w some other people. just audio. I think it may have been the Joplin tornado. I love me some thunderstorms. and I am not easily frightened. I had also heard tornados sound like a freight train.

half way thru that recording I had to rip out my earbuds because I couldn't hit mute fast enough.
it wasn't the people and what they were saying. it was the sound. I have never heard anything so terrifying. ever. it sounded like the world was ending.

and my understanding so far is this storm is way way way way worse than that.

someone upthread said "I can't imagine" gets bandied about a lot but they felt it appropriate for now because they couldn't imagine what this was like. I agree. I can not imagine. the wind from sandy here in south central pa was insane. I really cannot imagine.
posted by sio42 at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Woodroar, was that Hattiesburg MS by any chance? Drove through recently and saw that they've picked up a lot of the pieces, but still not all of them.
posted by localroger at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2013


The biggest danger during a tornado is flying debris.

There was some footage on KFOR earlier, from outside a medical center, that showed a sheet of ply sticking that had been blown horizontally into a wall about 15-20 feet up, as well as 2 by 4s sticking out as well.
posted by carter at 6:28 PM on May 20, 2013


A reporter from an okc station was just on CNN and expressed well what I had been thinking...the fact that this happened during the day makes for so much more chaos. Kids at school, parents at work, people running errands.

On the one hand, definitely. On the other, this particular storm seems to have completely decimated whole residential neighborhoods. If it had been night, every single one of those houses would have been fully occupied, but there were far fewer folks home at 3 pm.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:28 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


DO NOT SELF DEPLOY. WAIT TO BE ACTIVATED.

I'm seeing this everywhere as well (I'm in TX). I believe the immediate concern is keeping roads clear.
posted by double bubble at 6:29 PM on May 20, 2013


Oh my god, the aerial footage. Blocks and blocks are gone. Whole neighborhoods.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:31 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The live feed just reported that debris from Moore is now dropping near Branson, MO.
posted by donnagirl at 6:35 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


He just said that there is still debris in the jet-stream from Moore heading to Branson, MO. It's 8:36 now, so that means there is debris flying for about 4.5 hours now and still going.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 6:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to be a tornado footage junkie, and wanted to be a storm chaser. I can't help but still find them beautiful, but there have been so many bad outbreaks and so much loss since I was a teenager, I can't get into that gee-whiz mindset anymore. I must've kissed my kid 20 times, I'm sure he wonders what's wrong with me.
posted by emjaybee at 6:37 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


From New Orleans, seconding give me a hurricane any damn day compared to this.

Amen to that. I watched Hugo come ashore and I'm still more terrified of tornadoes.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine, L., a lawyer in Tulsa, told me an incredible story when I asked how she was doing. She told me briefly over IM what happened, and then she told everyone in more detail what happened through this FB post.

"I was leaving Lawton, Oklahoma from my court hearings during the day and I was driving down I-44. I saw one car pull off to the side and flash its hazards and then a few minutes later another pull over and then after another few minutes I noticed 15-20 cars pulled over. I kept driving, since the skies weren’t that dark. They were just sort of a heavy blue.

"When I reached the toll booth on I-44 there were about 300 cars off to the right side of the road and no cars were coming from the direction of the city of Newcastle where I was headed. Three ladies ran out in front of my car and motioned for me to pull over and stopped. I did and got out of the car to talk to them. They said a tornado had just passed through.

"By this point the wind was whipping up a storm and we were trying to listen to car radios and talk to our families on our phones. But then the wind suddenly died and the air went still and no sounds at all, then it hit.

"Apparently we’d been mistaken the tornado was only just reaching Newcastle since it was a mile wide with an added mile of a debris cloud. The reason we couldn’t see the funnel cloud was because it was two miles wide and stretched across the horizon like a black fog. Then we started seeing the lightning sparks from the power lines being ripped asunder. After that cars and house debris started appearing in the swirling storm.

"Those of us just watched in silent horror on the road. The woman next to me fainted and fell onto the grass in the ditch next to my car. No one thought to get our phones out. We all just stood there, frozen in horror and fascination. It took 10 minutes to pass the highway and then headed straight for Moore.

"My cell phone wasn’t able to get calls through or receive any communications and we all started driving again down I-44, not yet aware of the devastation we were about to see.

"We drove straight into Newcastle. Houses were flattened, farms destroyed, cars everywhere. State Troopers were on the scene, and I-44 was completely shut down. The troopers ordered everyone to stay put in Newcastle or turn around.

"I was trying to make it back to Tulsa and was told flat out that the storm cell was heading straight there and no one was allowed to go that way. So I drove in circles before parking in a shut down Lowes parking lot along with about 200 other cars. We were all just talking and watching the tornado slowly move towards through Moore and praying as we listened on the radio as it wiped out school after school in Moore.

"After an hour I was able to get back in my car and the troopers had worked out an alternate route back to Tulsa that would go far south of the storm systems.

"All said and done…I was in the car for more than 8 hours today…and if I hadn’t stopped for gas about 20 minutes before I hit Newcastle, I would have driven straight onto I-44 as the tornado swept across it….god knows what would have been my fate in that case."


All I could say to that was... holy shit... and that I was so glad she happened to stop for gas. What a terrifying thing to live through.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2013 [57 favorites]


I just got back home to Norman from work in OKC. I left early when the storm was still in Newcastle to try to make it home to beat the storm and ended up parked under the Cox convention center instead of heading down I-35 when I heard the sirens go off. I'll write more later when I stop crying. Our cable's out, so I have no idea what national coverage is, but just know that it is unimaginably awful here.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:40 PM on May 20, 2013 [61 favorites]


DO NOT SELF DEPLOY. WAIT TO BE ACTIVATED.

I'm seeing this everywhere as well (I'm in TX). I believe the immediate concern is keeping roads clear.
Beyond that, it's feeding, having potable water for, insurance for, and a safe place to put everyone who comes into the disaster area.

Yes, it takes a while for self-contained disaster relief forces -- state response teams, national guard, etc. -- to be activated and to arrive on-scene. These task forces arrive with enough food, water, and fresh clothing to supply the entire team for the length of the deployment. They arrive in packaged units of a common size and capability ready for the incident commander to use to save people. Your average rag-tag team of volunteers does not and the incident commander cannot waste time welcoming you -- or people will die. I know that it seems like it takes forever to happen, but it really is best this way. If anyone wants to ping me with questions about this or any other disaster response thing, I can't promise that I have the answers, but I will try to help you.

If you want to help -- thank you, your willingness is really appreciated. Please don't show up and hope to help. The most you will get is to be turned away. The best thing you can do is to go home and organize on your neighborhood or city level with your community emergency response team (creating one, if one does not already exist) so that you have enough resources to help yourselves in the first few hours before the calvary arrives. You need training and you need organization and you need supplies. Please get them, and keep training with them until they are needed.
posted by SpecialK at 6:42 PM on May 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


About ten years ago, my husband and I had to evacuate our car and get down in a ditch when a tornado dropped down unexpectedly.

This was a tiny tornado comparatively, thin enough that it ribboned through our neighborhood, knocking down one house, but leaving the one next to it completely intact. It was the kind of tornado that Hoosiers usually watch from their front porch with a sort of disinterested curiosity when it's about a mile in the distance.

That close, even though it was that small, it was humbling. Its inexorable march, our complete helplessness against it, changed me. No more watching from porches for me-- and this was an event where some property got damaged and absolutely no one got hurt.

I absolutely cannot imagine the horror of weathering a storm like this one in Oklahoma today.
posted by headspace at 6:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dr. Zira, please take care of yourself and your loved ones. Glad you're okay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


and that I was so glad she happened to stop for gas.

Tornadoes are like a reverse lottery. Not many get the matching numbers but if you do, it changes your life. Just not for the better.
posted by localroger at 6:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Glad you're ok Dr. Zira!

Footage is just heartbreaking. I've lived through several small tornadoes here and they were plenty scary - this is just beyond my ability to imagine.
posted by leslies at 6:44 PM on May 20, 2013


Here's a postscript to L's story. When someone asked her about the woman who fainted, L replied:

"The woman who fainted is fine. She just freaked when we saw a the tornado shoot a truck out of the funnel and send it flying about half a mile away to crash in a field....it was thrown in our direction and it scared the crap out of us."

Jesus.

And, I'm glad you're okay too, Dr. Zira.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:46 PM on May 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thank you for sharing that story, suburbanbeatnik.
posted by double bubble at 6:49 PM on May 20, 2013


From this People (I know, know) article:

James Rushing, who lives across the street from the school, heard reports of the approaching tornado and ran to the school, where his 5-year-old foster son, Aiden, attends classes. Rushing believed he would be safer there.

"About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said. The students were placed in the restroom.

"There's no safe room in the school. There will be," said Rushing, who said his home was virtually destroyed.


A total nightmare, all around.
posted by Leezie at 6:50 PM on May 20, 2013


all I can think is "flying truck?!?!?" I'm trying to imagine a truck falling from the sky within any measure of proximity to me. Christ.
posted by sio42 at 6:51 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really want this to be like other recent news situations where, tomorrow morning, the number is way down. Sadly, I don't think that's going to be the case here. Fuck.

A few minutes ago a reporter was -- very cautiously -- suggesting that some different locations that people had evacuated to were still in the process of cross checking for missing students and teachers and that it was still possible, not that they want to speculate, but they were getting word that previously isolated groups of survivors were starting to check in and that it's possible that the count of missing & presumed dead would turn out to be an overestimation.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:52 PM on May 20, 2013


this says the Oklahoma medical examiner confirms 51 deaths. not sure what that means...if they saw 51 dead personally or are going off of reports.
posted by sio42 at 6:56 PM on May 20, 2013


Has anyone heard from francesca too?
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2013


sio42, I believe the medical examiner numbers are of the deceased who are brought in.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2013


Dr. Zira, francesca too checked in over on the Metatalk thread.
posted by florencetnoa at 6:59 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Medical examiners only count pronounced dead bodies on hand.
posted by localroger at 7:00 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dr. Zira, here is a MetaTalk for OK people to check in.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:03 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've lived in the Dallas area for most of my life, and I can say with confidence that the raw power of a tornado is incomprehensible, even to those who have survived them. I've rode out a couple, and it still just doesn't compute. During such an event, and even in the aftermath, there's a sense of disbelief, almost confusion. It's like seeing a small piece of something infinitely more massive and terrifying than anything your brain can process- unearthly.

I was probably eight when the worst one I've experienced rolled though. The storm had been worsening all night, until suddenly, the rain slacked a little bit, and the wind picked up precipitously. The trees in my backyard bent sideways, and my dad yelled for my mom to take my sister and I to the bathroom closest to the center of my house. As I stood in the hallway, I could see my family and the storm out the windows directly in front of me. That's when I remember everything slowing down. First it was the sound. Everyone says it sounds like a freight train, and that is exactly, EXACTLY correct. There is not a more apt comparison that I can think to draw. It's a low, loud, and malicious sound, and it is EVERYWHERE at once. You can hear it swirling all around you and the house. You can feel like it's inside you skull. The windows started to rattle, and then bow rapidly. My mom was directly behind the windows, trying to coax my sister who was cowering behind the entertainment center to come with her. My dad threw himself on the window just as it looked like it would explode to shield them. I turned on my heel, and just kind of hoped everyone would follow me. I heard something shatter, and I started to cry. I was certain they had all been sucked out. When they opened the door perfectly fine, probably 30 seconds later, they told me the tornado had passed.

About twenty minutes later, the rain stopped too, and we looked outside. All the windows were intact. That crashing sound? Potted plant picked up and knocked over. The shingles of our roof had been partially torn off, and branches were all over the place. The tornado had done basically nothing to our house. The house directly across the street, however had gotten little messed up. The shed that had been in their backyard was now sitting upright, and almost completely undamaged in the middle of the street. The point is, this wasn't a particularly bad tornado, but damn, it felt like the end of the world. Tornadoes are weird and terrifying. I don't know what else to say.
posted by Krazor at 7:06 PM on May 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


I know a little bit, a very little bit, of what this was like.

My school did the drills and all that, and one day, when I was 11, we had to put it into practice. The tornado was bearing down on our small school just outside of Little Rock, I could see it swirling from the lunch room window, and the teachers had barely gotten us in the inner hallway when it hit. Loud roaring of the freight train, lots of people begging Jesus to make it go by, the girls softly crying. And then it was over, just like that. We went outside to find the gym severely damaged but the main building was untouched. Since we had survived, the 11 yr-old's sense of invulnerability reinforced rather than challenged, I was quite exhilarated. Crying girls meant I got lots of hugs. We got to go home early and missed the next couple of days of school so the whole thing was like a holiday. Only in retrospect, years later, could I really think about how bloody terrifying this storm was.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:08 PM on May 20, 2013


I live in what we affectionately call the "Ass End" of Tornado Alley. What this means is that we get a lot of Tornado Watches and even Warnings, but we don't often get too much more than wind, rain, downed trees, and the occasional roof torn off. (F0s - F2s, when they bother to touch down at all.)

In 2010, though, an F4 flattened the town of Millbury, just a short drive from here. Destroyed the high school entirely the night before graduation. It also happened to be the night before we were taking Elder Monster up to Cedar Point for the summer, he had landed a job up there.

We had a lot of really violent storms that summer, and the tornado sirens went off more that summer than in any that I can remember. And there was my kid, living in a 100+ year-old building right on the most obnoxious of the Great Lakes. He texted a lot that summer, to try to keep me from worrying. (I worried anyway.)

It was on record as the worst tornado in this area since the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado, which was, depending on who you talk to, an F4 or F5 (the Fujita scale wasn't introduced until '71) That one wiped out the entire North end and part of the West end of the city, including the neighborhood where my house now sits. My next door neighbor lived here then, a couple streets over, and the tale he tells is chilling. He came up from the basement to find the neighborhood...gone. Rebuilt anyway, figured to have better luck on this street. The photos he has are terrifying, yet fascinating.

NO ONE in this end of town ignores the sirens, ever. Even when we lived in the apartment community a bit from here, when the sirens sounded, the whole damned building headed for the laundry room. (Until I moved in, and made everyone come into my apartment to watch the weather radar with me. If I'm going to be frighted half out of my mind, might as well have company.)
posted by MissySedai at 7:10 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're welcome, double bubble. I too thought of "Twister." Terrible movie but it conveyed how frightening and horrifying and eerie tornadoes are.

I just can't get over how... apocalyptic and cinematic my friend's story was. And that if she hadn't stopped for gas, she would have died. And a flying truck crashed near her. Whaaaaat.... I can't even imagine that.

L. is also an author who recently got a book contract. I wonder if any of this will ever get into one of her books...
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:11 PM on May 20, 2013


One of my best friends moved out there recently to take care of his elderly mom. They live just north of the path of the tornado. I don't think there's cell service to the area.
posted by Catblack at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2013


More of these will happen, more moisture from warmer oceans, can't change the effect of the air coming off the higher plains colliding with the gulf air.

For now, blaming the Moore, Okla., tornado on global warming is bad science and bad politics
posted by homunculus at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


SLYTornado
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am reading this thread at my house, which is 2 blocks south of an area where the Hattiesburg MS tornado hit earlier this year. I was in my hallway during that, and for the longest minute and a half, it seemed quite possible we might lose our house and be injured or killed. During Katrina, I spent 8 hours in the same hallway, listening to intermittent crashes, followed by "sploosh!" as another part of our roof gave way.

I cannot imagine the terror of living in Moore today.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:24 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


24 children still unaccounted for at the Plaza school. Oh my god.
posted by Ber at 7:26 PM on May 20, 2013


SLYTornado

holy fuck
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2013


.
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:31 PM on May 20, 2013


Didn't read the whole thread, but so far am in FB touch with a friend there. She says the sky is changing colors by the minute.

Hope everyone finds safety.
posted by trip and a half at 7:31 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


bad science and bad politics

Maybe, probably even, for now. After all the same area got hit very hard in 1999, so it didn't need global warming. They just lost the reverse lottery twice in a row.

But weather patterns are changing, as can be seen from the freakishly cold weather seen in some parts of the US mainly because air masses that usually spend the whole winter in the Arctic have been wandering southward, also leaving the Arctic with freakishly warm weather.

Freakish weather is not a good thing, when you consider that in many respects what is going on in Moore right now is the result of normal weather.
posted by localroger at 7:33 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh my god, I grew up in Oklahoma and this is like watching my worst childhood fears (short of cold-war nuclear apocalypse) play out.

This. THIS. I remember seeing "Twister" in the movie theater, walking out into the parking lot afterwards, and immediately looking up. Then I realized that I wasn't the only person doing it.

I first heard about this today from my mom who sent me text messages - she lives near Ft. Cobb, so luckily far enough away from any storms (today). I grew up in Anadarko.
posted by mrbill at 7:42 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My friend is safe. Says the storm has turned south.
posted by trip and a half at 7:44 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm so sick of the constant calls after every weather disaster to avoid blaming global warming. The same pundits who won't let us blame the prevalance of firearms after school shootings.

It is not bad science to point out that if you increase the amount of energy in the atmosphere, it is very likely to increase the frequency of these types of events. 100 year events are now happening much more frequently.
posted by humanfont at 7:56 PM on May 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


I grew up in a part of North Carolina that has a higher-than-usual rate of tornadoes. One day, when I was about 9, the weather stations were talking about a severe storm that was coming through; and we lived at that time in a poorly constructed house, so we tended to go to my grandmother's house (which had ancient, 8" × 8" beam construction). This day, though, as we went outside... I just got a feeling that something was amiss; and refused to get in the car. My mom agreed to wait for a little while until I felt better, and we did. As we drove to my grandmother's, we drove through the small town nearby and discovered that we'd missed driving through a tornado by about fifteen minutes.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:59 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


i know deniers like to say wait hoping that the conversation never gets started - i know it's a silencing tactic - but, can't we at least wait a night, until we find the bodies of the children, until some of the analysis has come in, until those of us who feel guilty for being glad to be ok get a night's sleep? there are people in this thread actively hurting - people who know that our politicians are assholes on the wrong side of this debate, people who know it's going to get worse - we're on your side, but maybe a little strained right now.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Oklahoma (20 minutes south of Moore). I know the area that got hit pretty well. We saw Star Trek Friday at the Moore theater, the one that keeps getting shown on the news.

We're fine, but it's an absolute nightmare. Local news anchors who have been covering this stuff for decades were breaking down on the air. It's really unlike anything I've seen before.
posted by HostBryan at 8:10 PM on May 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


They had some tornadoes yesterday too and, on the live feed, I heard them mentioning that the weatherman had been telling people to get underground or they wouldn't be safe all morning. Even with a warning, though, a tornado is a merciless thing.

This is one of the problems I have with the weather people profession. Hyperbolic statements like this only serve to make a real warning less useful. The better warnings would be more like "there is every chance there will be tornadoes somewhere today. Keep your eyes on the sky and be prepared to move to shelter.

The really scary thing about tornadoes is their unpredictability. It's like water going down the bathtub drain. Same conditions, sometimes a funnel forms and sometimes it doesn't. All tornadoes form quickly; the ones where you happen to get some warning are the ones that formed quickly a little further away from you.
posted by gjc at 8:14 PM on May 20, 2013


OK, this is awful, but can someone explain to me how you would drown in a tornado?

My dad picked me and my friends up from downtown and drove us home during the F4 that tracked through eastern Edmonton and killed 27 people (injuring a few hundred more) in 1987. Between the overloaded storm drain system and the rainfall, we drove through (10-12 km away from the tornado track) fast-moving water up to the tops of the wheel-wells. It's not hard to imagine that in a more powerful tornado, someone in an open area could be knocked over and drowned, much less someone trapped in a non-watertight basement.
posted by gingerest at 8:15 PM on May 20, 2013


Originally from Tulsa here. Just found out that my family in mid-OK is safe. Apparently my aunt (who lives in Norman) had been in Moore this afternoon, but was able to to make it home before the storm. My uncle had to drive way out west and then south to get home from OKC since the highway is shut down. Despite growing up surrounded by tornado weather, I'm lucky enough to have never seen one. I've been in a few small earthquakes since moving to California, but I'll take a quake any day over tornados.
posted by fishmasta at 8:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I grew up in a part of North Carolina that has a higher-than-usual rate of tornadoes.

Where did you grow up, Sonic Meat Machine? When I was little I was in Bladen County. When I was about five tornadoes came through and destroyed about half of the houses around us. I still remember walking outside and thinking, 'Wow, how come that house and not ours? It's right next door!'
posted by trip and a half at 8:20 PM on May 20, 2013


My friend just checked in and uploaded his videos on facebook. I am so relieved! (They were at the northern edge of the debris field.)
posted by Catblack at 8:30 PM on May 20, 2013


>: "Why do schools in OK not have underground storm shelters?"

Money. It's important to note though that shelters, even F5 capable shelters, don't need to be underground. They just need to be below grade which can be accommodated even in flat as a pancake prairie with a large berm. And a bermed shelter is much more resistant to dangerous flooding than an underground shelter.

>: "It rains, too, sometimes a lot. You can see a deeply flooded parking lot in the buzzfeed photo set."

And the heavy hail often fouls storm drains leading to surface accumulations.
posted by Mitheral at 8:35 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here in DFW, the news people were fine until they got to talking about the elementary school. I think that's the part most people can't really take in. And even after watching this unfold online, until I saw the TV footage of the debris path, taken from the helicopter, the immensity didn't hit me. The view kept pulling back and it was house lots wiped clean in every direction. It just kept going.

Every time I see footage of tornado-hit homes, I am always struck by how little the mound of rubble is; things are smashed of course, but when you crumple all your possessions together, they really don't include that much mass, compared to the space they take up in your life. Even if you have so much stuff you feel overwhelmed, it can be smashed down to a tiny hill of debris in a few seconds.
posted by emjaybee at 8:38 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


.
posted by marimeko at 8:41 PM on May 20, 2013


I know these peoples losses are great but I do hear that many people loose all their family photos and search for them in the rubble. People should scan their photos and upload to Google/Flickr and/or put them on a hard drive with a friend/family in another location. In addition scan important documents. I wish I could help people do this in disaster prone areas such as this.
posted by robbyrobs at 8:45 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


robbyrobs: "People should scan their photos and upload to Google/Flickr and/or put them on a hard drive with a friend/family in another location."

My offsite back up tape lives at my mother's place; which isn't 2 miles away. Though with Flickr's new generous data limits I'm seriously considering uploading the whole thing. Even worse though is your back up could be miles away and still be impacted by this tornado if your offsite location was also in the tornado's path.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


People should scan their photos and upload to Google/Flickr and/or put them on a hard drive with a friend/family in another location.

Not everyone has the equipment necessary for this. In Oklahoma, about 55% of residents have computers, and 45% of residents have internet access. That doesn't even count how many might have a scanner.

It's very easy to forget that many, many people live completely offline and don't have access to the things most of us at MeFi take for granted.
posted by MissySedai at 9:05 PM on May 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


I nearly got my sh*t blown away in Tulsa in the 1975 tornado. I was curled up in the floor board of a VW beetle that was hopping around like a frog underneath an overpass in Crystal City. I had unwisely ignored the radar blips moving northward along the Indian Nation Turnpike. The chartreuse green mammatus clouds should have been a warning. With an ounce of sense I would have been scurrying for the "fraidy hole". It is a sphincter clinching experience that will never leave you. My heart goes out to the Okies this has befallen...
posted by jim in austin at 9:12 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Native Tulsan. The OKC wing of the family was out of harm's way.

I am with treepour -- we all feared the big tornado coming through. If we had time, we'd try to make it to my grandmother's house where she had a below-grade lowest level. But usually we kids got thrown in the bathtub with the mattress on standby.

Tulsa hasn't been hit with a major tornado since 1993. Since then, OKC has had five, including three EF4 or above twisters.
posted by dw at 9:13 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every time I see footage of tornado-hit homes, I am always struck by how little the mound of rubble is

I think in this case, a lot of it was also blown away. From what I can understand, some of it made it up to the jetstream.
posted by carter at 9:16 PM on May 20, 2013


localroger: Woodroar, was that Hattiesburg MS by any chance? Drove through recently and saw that they've picked up a lot of the pieces, but still not all of them.

Nope, this was St. Peter, MN in 1998. Seems like just a few years ago even though it was fifteen. Walking through the debris the next day, wide-eyed and filled with a mixture of wonder and terror.
posted by Woodroar at 9:28 PM on May 20, 2013


I've lived through many hurricanes, and have been within a mile or so of a tornado. I'll take hurricanes, thanks. This tornado is terrifying. Is it me, or have there been a lot more really big tornadoes in the last few years? I mean the tornadoes with 1 and 2 mile funnel clouds. That's massive, and it seems like nothing could stand up to that.

My heart is breaking thinking of all the parents and kids, and I just wish there was something more I could do than donate to the red cross and send supplies. I know I'd just get in the way if I went there. But I want to do something, there seems like there should be something else I can do.
posted by dejah420 at 9:40 PM on May 20, 2013


In the linked news links above, they are indicating that this will be downgraded to EF4.
posted by schyler523 at 9:51 PM on May 20, 2013


Jessica Shambach from KOCO is interviewing a nurse and nursing student who were providing assistance at Plaza Towers Elementary. They're saying they had to set up a makeshift morgue in the school cafeteria. They confirmed the kids died of drowning from the pipes that busted in the hallway where they were sheltering. Just lost my shit again.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:02 PM on May 20, 2013


ME is now saying 91 killed.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:04 PM on May 20, 2013


The TV people are saying this was probably the worst tornado in history. But I don't understand how they're coming to that conclusion. There have been tornados in the USA that have killed many hundreds of people, and there was a tornado in Bangladesh that killed well over a thousand people.
posted by Justinian at 10:08 PM on May 20, 2013


Although it's possible that a weaker tornado could do more damage in a place where construction standards are lower and people are packed together more densely!
posted by Justinian at 10:10 PM on May 20, 2013


Sending love down the Mother Road.
posted by timsteil at 10:12 PM on May 20, 2013


Well US TV people usually mean Worst in US history when they say things like that.

schyler523: " they are indicating that this will be downgraded to EF4."

Looking at the pictures of the destroyed homes and school I wonder if they are going off of wind speeds.
posted by Mitheral at 10:16 PM on May 20, 2013


I grew up in an area that saw a fair share of tornado activity. I've described the 1985 tornadoes before (can't find the comment on my phone). That green sky ... It is a peculiarly terrifying thing if you know what it means. Not enough warning to run, just enough warning to be thoroughly terrified.

I live in earthquake country now. I'll take an earthquake over a tornado any day.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:26 PM on May 20, 2013


I guess it depends on the measurement you use for "worst." The deadliest single tornado in US history was the Tri-State Tornado in 1925, where 695 people died across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. I hope I'm not proven wrong when I say I doubt we'll reach that. (Nine of the ten deadliest tornadoes in US history occurred before modern weather instruments and warning systems, prior to 1953. The tenth was Joplin, coming in at #5 with 158 fatalities.)

The highest damage cost was Joplin again, at $2.8 billion. It's hard to compare across years - even adjusting for inflation - because the size of population, built environments, and infrastructure. Plus measuring damage is a notoriously dodgy proposition. But in 1896 a mile-wide tornado tore through downtown St. Louis. A tornado through St. Louis today would be catastrophic in terms of damage.
posted by OHSnap at 10:36 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect that for the victims and witnesses of any horrific disaster such as this, the very worst one in the world was the very last one.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:42 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


They were probably caught up in the pictures they were seeing, which is understandable.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in tornado country, and last year we saw a tornado that demolished a town in Eastern Kentucky.

That tornado was an EF3 and half the town was gone. I drove through after the tornado and what I couldn't get my mind around were the trees -- whole swathes of huge trees on the mountainsides, old-growth forest lying flat against the ground. Like a giant had just stepped on them.

I cannot begin to comprehend what an EF5 could do.

I am not from tornado country -- I am from blizzard country, where "stay indoors, stock canned goods and firewood, own a shovel" is about the only emergency info you need. Thunderstorms alone scare the life out of me and the worst storms I've ever seen in my life have been in the past year since I moved here. Now that I live here and have to plan for the worst, in the event the sirens in my city go off, this throat-squeezing panic starts to set in. I have a plan, but it involves running several blocks to a Kroger since my building lacks a basement. Failing that ... hide in the bathtub, I guess?

Sending love to those hurt today, and any others in a tornado's path this summer.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 10:43 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


two dozen children at least are presumed dead in one of the schools. Horrifyingly, seven of them drowned.

Sheltering in basement + broken water mains.

I think I'll just go drink myself into a coma.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:57 PM on May 20, 2013


The TV people are saying this was probably the worst tornado in history. But I don't understand how they're coming to that conclusion.

I heard a reporter say it was the worst ever in history "in terms of US dollar amount of damage", which is probably true but more sensational than actually useful for comparison.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:23 PM on May 20, 2013


I don't think that it matters if it's "the worst." You could say "it's the 14th worst tornado in history", but you're not the one pulling dead children out of a crumpled school building. Bad is bad. Score keeping isn't important.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:27 PM on May 20, 2013 [9 favorites]




"Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn..."

Jesus. I'll get mine, but the rest of you poor assholes are on your own.

Didn't Ted Cruz lobby for federal aid for West Comma Texas but voted against aid for Sandy?

Jackasses.
posted by OHSnap at 11:40 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Atlantic has a photo gallery.
posted by OHSnap at 12:12 AM on May 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


David Foster Wallace: “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” DFW essay about growing up in tornado country; relevant tornado anecdote about 4/5 the way into the essay.

Alternately, it's on p73 in this pdf of the essay as published in December 1991 Harpers Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern Boyhood.


I've been trying to get a sense of these things, the scope of them. A mile -- hey, it doesn't sound like much. Except when I consider how far it actually is, that it takes give or take 15 minutes to walk that distance, or 20 minutes. I try to see that entire distance as 200mph destruction, headed right at me. Those poor people.

I've seen a tornado once, way off in the distance, out of a second story window at work, north Austin. It was remote enough that it was "interesting." These poor people didn't get to have any distance on it, it was far more than interesting. Terrifying.

For some reason, the hospital blown out as it was, and the images of people on stretchers being taken out of the hospital, that really gets to me. And those are the lucky ones, the ones who are alive. I think of hospitals as the ultimate safe place, that if an emergency happens in a hospital, hey, you're covered. Except if it's a tornado that comes out of the afternoon skies, the lights flash off and you ring that nurse call and then it's huge noise and the window blows in.

. for the lost lives, the heartaches.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:13 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wind pressure on a structure goes up as the fourth power of wind speed.

I was going to say that doesn't make intuitive sense, but I checked and it's not true. Pressure goes up as the square of wind speed.

Pressure = ½ x (density of air) x (wind speed)²
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:59 AM on May 21, 2013


Of course you are still correct that pressure goes up dramatically as wind speed increases.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:05 AM on May 21, 2013






I know mefites are by and large cat people, but damn. Dogs are just awesome.
posted by OHSnap at 3:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pressure equation omits the Reynolds number aka coefficient of drag, which is super relevant for chunky, irregular, non aerodynamic shapes like houses.

A car can easily withstand wind at 100mph from the front as it is designed to. From the side it will blow over and roll like a tumbleweed.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


A chance of tornados during the afternoon here in DFW today. About to wake my kid up and send him to school...gah. It's still safer than our house (lower ground, brand new building) but shit, I want to put him in the car and drive somewhere outside the storm path.
posted by emjaybee at 4:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I'm saddened by the events in Oklahoma, I oppose any extra aid until they get some new Senators. What goes around comes around.
posted by humanfont at 4:16 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Late last year, Inhofe and Coburn both backed a plan to slash disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. In a December press release, Coburn complained that the Sandy Relief bill contained "wasteful spending," and identified a series of items he objected to, including "$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies."

Coburn spokesman John Hart on Monday evening confirmed that the senator will seek to ensure that any additional funding for tornado disaster relief in Oklahoma be offset by cuts to federal spending elsewhere in the budget. "That's always been his position [to offset disaster aid]," Hart said. "He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort." Those offsets were achieved in 1995 by tapping federal funds that had not yet been appropriated.

(Christina Wilkie, Huffington Post).
posted by spitbull at 4:19 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I'm saddened by the events in Oklahoma, I oppose any extra aid until they get some new Senators. What goes around comes around.

That is kind of sick.
posted by empath at 4:20 AM on May 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


Both Senators From Oklahoma Votes Against Federal Disaster Relief For Hurricane Sandy, Now Face Difficult Questions Regarding Tornado Relief

What difficult questions? This happens every single time federal aid bills come up. Southern and Midwestern Congresspeople in particular seem to have an extra strong "fuck you I've got mine" sensibility, because coastal ones tend to vote for aid everywhere, not just in their backyards.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:22 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


And the press never, ever calls them on it. No one will ask Cruz or Inhofe or Coburn more than a cursory question before asking them what scandal du jour they want to impeach Obama on.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:23 AM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


.
posted by angrycat at 4:31 AM on May 21, 2013


zombieflanders, because at this point, who cares? The little kids who died at school never voted for those idiots? And we're going to give Oklahomans as much money as they need. Arguing politics is stupid right now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:34 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Incredibly stupid fight. Think humanity, not politics.
posted by h00py at 4:48 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


zombieflanders, because at this point, who cares? The little kids who died at school never voted for those idiots? And we're going to give Oklahomans as much money as they need. Arguing politics is stupid right now.

Because it matters. Because sometimes we're not able to give people the money they need. These assholes successfully blocked aid for Sandy, and will likely do it again if something bad happens in Maryland or California or New York or any other state they don't like. If we don't get angry at them now, they'll end up doing something that lets people die and get away with it.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


The OK senators see every disaster as a chance to cut funding for schools, science and food stamps. I'd be all for taking the politics out of disaster relief, but these guys arn't willing to do it. These guys saw Sandy Hook as an opportunity to put guns in the classroom. They saw 9-11 as a chance to take away civil liberties.
posted by humanfont at 4:53 AM on May 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


The OK congressional delegation (as quoted above) not only opposed Sandy relief, but it is *already* talking about offsetting OKC aid with further cuts to programs in other states that also benefit poor children who never voted for anyone. Do those kids count in the determination of which aspects of this we are allowed to discuss or how we are permitted to feel on metafilter?
posted by spitbull at 5:03 AM on May 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Jesus, this is just awful.

I live in Missouri so tornadoes are something we just have to deal with. They scare the ever loving shit out of me. I remember running up the street to my granny's house to take shelter in her basement during a small one when I was 10 or so. The winds were so strong at that point they were blowing our dog, while she ran behind us, off her feet. She just rolled down to granny's with us, the wind carrying her.

I remember cowering in a hallway once when I was a kid at school. Tornado took the roof off the gym.

Thoughts to everyone in OK. This is just beyond awful.

. x 51
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:07 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


OHSnap: " But in 1896 a mile-wide tornado tore through downtown St. Louis. A tornado through St. Louis today would be catastrophic in terms of damage."

What's ironic (or something) is that some of the neighborhoods in the path of that 1896 tornado have been somewhat depopulated for a long time and are now starting to gentrify. So had there been a repeat in the last 40 years it wouldn't have been as bad.
posted by notsnot at 5:09 AM on May 21, 2013


There is no bottom limit, I guess, to the evil of people who see every event, no matter how tragic, as an opportunity to hurt the vulnerable. I can't think of any other word but "sociopathic" for such behavior.
posted by emjaybee at 5:18 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


While I'm saddened by the events in Oklahoma, I oppose any extra aid until they get some new Senators. What goes around comes around.
posted by humanfont at 6:16 on May 21
[+] [!]


Then you've already conceded the argument, and don't sincerely believe that people have a right to aid from their government in the face of catastrophe. Putting you on the same side as the Oklahoma senators.
posted by samofidelis at 5:18 AM on May 21, 2013


Missy, I remember the Palm Sunday tornado (I grew up in Lorain) and how terrifying it was even from miles away. And if you lived in that area, you were regularly reminded of the tornado of 1924.
posted by etaoin at 5:19 AM on May 21, 2013


Southern and Midwestern Congresspeople in particular seem to have an extra strong "fuck you I've got mine" sensibility, because coastal ones tend to vote for aid everywhere, not just in their backyards.

So you are aware, this is the kind of thing that people in the middle of the country hear people on the edges of the country say about them that makes them conclude that people on the edges of the country can take a long walk off a short pier. And the cycle continues, forever.

None of this gets anybody anywhere. It saves no houses, builds no roads, rescues no kids, repairs no businesses, restores no power, feeds no families, dries no basements, and reduces no fallen trees to firewood. Empathy has to be divorced from strategy, and everybody on every side of every issue needs to figure out which one is called for in which situation.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:38 AM on May 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


There's also some knee jerk in that sentiment. The areas most frequently hit by natural disasters in this country have been the South -- hurricanes -- and Midwest -- tornadoes and flooding. Do you really have anything to back up this statement?
posted by samofidelis at 5:44 AM on May 21, 2013


(Other than the Sandy aid travesty.)
posted by samofidelis at 5:45 AM on May 21, 2013


this is the kind of thing that people in the middle of the country hear people on the edges of the country say about them that makes them conclude that people on the edges of the country can take a long walk off a short pier. And the cycle continues, forever.

Screw their feelings. I'll always support the aid, but I'm sick of having to treat conservative adults like children who need their guardians to coddle and protect them from their own mistakes. They elect heartless idiots who don't believe in government, they need to learn to stop it.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:46 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


There's also some knee jerk in that sentiment. The areas most frequently hit by natural disasters in this country have been the South -- hurricanes -- and Midwest -- tornadoes and flooding. Do you really have anything to back up this statement?

Yes, Republicans from places hit by hurricanes want to cut something called "volcano monitoring." They have a history of this that goes way beyond Sandy.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Empathy has to be divorced from strategy.

Empathy is strategy.
posted by cromagnon at 5:52 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


So you are aware, this is the kind of thing that people in the middle of the country hear people on the edges of the country say about them that makes them conclude that people on the edges of the country can take a long walk off a short pier. And the cycle continues, forever.

If they're not offended that their Congressional representation doesn't care about anyone but them, and that the people on the coasts are unworthy of help, then that's a problem. But I fail to see how that's the problem coming from the people on the coast. I think that people all over tend to think that anyone anywhere should get the help and recovery they need, but there's a vocal minority and the representation that they choose to elect that don't. The vicious cycle isn't the fault of most people, it's the fault of those with money and/or power.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:53 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, that MoJo article goes back to 2005, but it largely deals with events that have occurred more recently. I don't know that I'd call that a long history -- the Republican party has gone insane in the last twenty years, and this just seems symptomatic of that.

Moreover, most of the individuals named in it are from Texas, but only by a slight majority. There are plenty of New Jersey Republicans with their names in that list.

I don't think this really shows that it's a regional issue, so much as a party issue. The two aren't completely interchangeable.
posted by samofidelis at 6:17 AM on May 21, 2013


Empathy is strategy.
posted by cromagnon at 7:52 on May 21
[1 favorite +] [!]


This is like diametrically wrong. This is the opposite of right.
posted by samofidelis at 6:20 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I shudder to think that violent weather will be becoming more common as temperatures rise.

I've lived through a tornado and the experience of powerlessness is indescribable. This is a horrible situation made more so by the number of young victims and the fact that their hospital was so badly hit. Many people will be facing a completely changed reality today.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:33 AM on May 21, 2013


Moreover, most of the individuals named in it are from Texas, but only by a slight majority. There are plenty of New Jersey Republicans with their names in that list.

It's an article in response to Sandy, so of course they highlight the Northeast folks.

The two aren't completely interchangeable.

Not completely, but to a large degree one party has dominance in the South and in places like Oklahoma.

I don't know that I'd call that a long history

That's fine, what I meant was that this is not an issue isolated to Sandy and that the FYGM attitude in disaster relief debates from the Republicans is a real thing.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:37 AM on May 21, 2013


Moreover, most of the individuals named in it are from Texas, but only by a slight majority. There are plenty of New Jersey Republicans with their names in that list.

Not really. There's only two from Texas and one each from Iowa, Wisconsin, Alaska, NJ, NY, and Virginia. And it's pointed out several times where coastal Republicans broke with the party:
In King's telling, Boehner's decision was a "a cruel knife in the back." Later in the day, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie also wondered what had come of his party, calling the decision "callous" and "disgusting," and adding: "This used to be something that was not political."
[...]
Reps. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) are the only two members of the New York–New Jersey delegation [out of eight] to oppose the measure.
[...]
Foreshadowing what would happen one year later with Hurricane Sandy aid, New Jersey Republican Reps. Chris Smith and Rodney Frelinghuysen both pressure Boehner to approve the funding.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:38 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombieflanders, those congressmen (and governor) were at that moment speaking about aid to their own region. I'd discount that and look at the other disaster responses.

Furthermore, Alaska and Wisconsin hardly fit into the South & Midwest taxonomy, unless that's just intended as a shorthand for anywhere-but-California-and-metro-NYC. Which, I don't think that New Yorker cover is a great way to understand the republic.
posted by samofidelis at 6:42 AM on May 21, 2013


Southern and Midwestern Congresspeople in particular seem to have an extra strong "fuck you I've got mine" sensibility, because coastal ones tend to vote for aid everywhere, not just in their backyards.

This is the very slighest of nits to pick, but it's a pet peeve of mine. The South is largely coastal. Using "coastal" as a euphemism for "the mid-Atlantic and North East" is silly when the South is more or less all coastal states (plus Tennessee and Arkansas), including the coastal states that suffer regularly from hurricanes. That obviously doesn't change the point about the "fuck you, got mine" attitude, but if we're going to talk about regional differences, I think it helps to define the regions properly.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:49 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Zombieflanders, those congressmen (and governor) were at that moment speaking about aid to their own region. I'd discount that and look at the other disaster responses.

So was one of the Texans.

Furthermore, Alaska and Wisconsin hardly fit into the South & Midwest taxonomy

Alaska, no, but Wisconsin is most certainly officially and unofficially part of the Midwest.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:50 AM on May 21, 2013


Wisconsin is absolutely in the midwest.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awful to think of the night the parents of the children listed as missing just spent.
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah I think I just kept typing, there.
posted by samofidelis at 6:59 AM on May 21, 2013


via NBC: 101 survivors of Oklahoma tornado found alive by search and rescue
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:59 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Prayers for everyone affected by the tornado yesterday. It seems too soon since Joplin that another major urban area was struck by such a ferocious act of nature on such an unbelievable scale.

.
posted by Atreides at 7:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive my question but, shouldn't it be manditory for all schools and hospitals to have basements constructed or some large storm shelter to help this out? I can't even imagine what happened. 20 children off the bat w/out knowing a final count. Heartbreaking.
posted by stormpooper at 7:00 AM on May 21, 2013


Forgive my question but, shouldn't it be mandatory for all schools and hospitals to have basements constructed or some large storm shelter to help this out?

As mentioned above somewhere, I believe that the soil in this particular part of Oklahoma may not always allow for that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2013




(Confirmed) death toll revised down to 24.
posted by Eyebeams at 7:33 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whoa really? That's great! I was hearing 99 this morning.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:36 AM on May 21, 2013


Missing dog found alive during interview.

It's a good story but man, when she says "HELP ME" and no camera person or reporter appears to help her I want to kick all of journalism in the butt.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:39 AM on May 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Forgive my question but, shouldn't it be manditory for all schools and hospitals to have basements constructed or some large storm shelter to help this out? I can't even imagine what happened. 20 children off the bat w/out knowing a final count. Heartbreaking.

Considering the large asshole contingent of congress that wants to do things like make poor kids be janitors and get rid of school lunches for hungry kids, I don't think we'd have much luck improving safety in our schools by law.

We can't get funding for highway bridges even when they collapse. We can't get medical care for people who go fight our wars. We can't get inspectors even when people are dying from spoiled food. We can't get any changes unless they are to allow the very richest people to get more.

Our country's processes are broken. I'm not trying to derail, but any time we want to say "there needs to be a law!" we need to be realistic about what we're up against.
posted by emjaybee at 7:48 AM on May 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


shouldn't it be manditory for all schools and hospitals to have basements constructed or some large storm shelter to help this out?

The Plaza Towers school did have a basement. The people who sheltered there drowned when it filled with water.

Normally, a restroom or corridor in a reinforced concrete or cinder block building is a perfectly good shelter. When the tornado is strong enough to get you there, you're just as likely to be crushed or trapped in your underground shelter when it wads up the building you're under and drops it on you.
posted by localroger at 7:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Statistics is a bitch.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2013


Potomac Avenue: "Missing dog found alive during interview.

It's a good story but man, when she says "HELP ME" and no camera person or reporter appears to help her I want to kick all of journalism in the butt.
"

Someone helps her lift up the debris so the dog can get out. That poor, shellshocked little guy! :(
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:58 AM on May 21, 2013


Also "That's life in the big city!" is the toughest shit I've ever heard. That woman needs to become a meme called Resilience.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:02 AM on May 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, they should get aid. But they shouldn't get their cuts. And nobody should have to give a shit what they think about anything ever again.
posted by Artw at 8:02 AM on May 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is an amazing video. It shows the formation and touchdown of the tornado, and then watches it grow into something really horrific.(from reddit).
posted by doctor_negative at 8:06 AM on May 21, 2013 [20 favorites]




doctor_negative, that video is terrifying.
posted by devinemissk at 8:39 AM on May 21, 2013


FEMA guidlines for constructing a storm shelter in your home. There are ways to retrofit a small room or closet to withstand some damage. The guid includes this excerpt

Moore, Oklahoma – Don Staley and his family are no strangers to storms and tornados. Their first home was hit by a tornado in October 1998 and suffered minor damage, but was destroyed by another tornado on May 3, 1999. They rode out both storms inside the house. “It was such a frightening sound,” he said. “We decided we weren’t going to ride out another one inside the house.”
In December 2000, the Staleys’ new home was ready. Shortly after moving in, they had an above-ground safe room constructed on the back patio. The concrete room has 8-inch thick walls, an 18-inch thick ceiling, a 10-inch foundation, and a sliding entry door made of 12-gauge steel with 3/4-inch plywood on each side. The safe room is equipped with battery-powered lights and a battery-powered television.
When the warning sirens sounded on May 8, 2003, Don took shelter in the safe room along with his dog and two cats to ride out the storm feeling very protected and safe. “I was watching it on TV in there,” he recalled. “I could see it was coming my way and I could hear it coming. I could hear the roar. That’s a sound you never forget.”
When he emerged from the shelter, he found his house in shambles with the roof ripped off. Other houses on the street were also heavily damaged or destroyed. The Staleys used their safe room following the tornado to store and protect belongings they had salvaged. The Stayleys’ home was among the more than 300 homes destroyed in the city that day. Whereas a severe tornado hit the city in May 1999 and claimed 44 lives, there were no deaths in the 2003 tornado. The absence of fatalities is being attributed to community preparedness, improved early warning systems, and the many safe rooms and shelters that have been built. Staley sums it all up, “The safe room saved my life, it came through with flying colors. It’s worth a million bucks to me.”


I wonder if Don Staley's shelter was of any help in this level of intensity of storm?
posted by The Violet Cypher at 8:44 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Artw, maybe people (by and large) hold Paleolithic views only because they grew up poor and uneducated and unexposed to the wider world. Maybe their holding fast to 'backwards' views is something else to treat with empathy and compassion
posted by samofidelis at 8:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Normally, a restroom or corridor in a reinforced concrete or cinder block building is a perfectly good shelter. When the tornado is strong enough to get you there, you're just as likely to be crushed or trapped in your underground shelter when it wads up the building you're under and drops it on you.

Concrete block is much worse than reinforced concrete, unless there's also a steel frame. The weakness is the mortar joints, and the fact that concrete blocks are easily smashed by tornadic debris. Lose enough of them, and the wall falls. And, if it's a load bearing wall, whatever's above it falls as well -- though a concrete block wall should *never* be load bearing.

It is trivial for a tornado to throw a 2x4 through concrete blocks. They're just not that strong.

The important thing on the shelter is that it keeps you from being crushed and lets you breathe, and keeps flying debris from hitting you directly. You can be dug out if you're still alive.

And note that a shelter from an earthquake and a shelter from a tornado have important differences -- namely, not much comes at you from the side in an earthquake, while almost all of the hazard comes at you from the side in a tornado.
posted by eriko at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


They elect heartless idiots who don't believe in government, they need to learn to stop it.

i'm pretty sure that no oklahoma residents who are also mefites voted for those fuckers. i know you were speaking more broadly, but maybe just remember for a second that you're not talking about some far off place filled with people you don't know - some of us are sitting right here.

onto happier topics - the reduction of death toll is amazing news. i quietly wished for it last night and my husband tried to prepare me for double instead of half. i agreed that it's what it looked like would happen, but i still hoped.
posted by nadawi at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Allow me to clarify, I was speaking specifically about conservative adults and their voting choices, not people from Oklahoma.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I propose that all citizens be given videographer training. If we're going to be a youtube-enabled society, let us at least have good videos.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, uh, guys. Right up the road from me is a town that looks like it was ripped from the face of the earth. You will forgive me if I do not care one single bit about what you think about the idiots that this state sends to Congress at the moment.
posted by HostBryan at 9:30 AM on May 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


Sympathy for the Senators? No, never. They're doing just fine and will get the subsidies they want and have a fair chance of getting to screw over everyone else as they have requested.

As for the people of OK, well, try and do better next time. And if you actually support the crappy line these idiots are selling then shame on you.
posted by Artw at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2013


unless there's also a steel frame

That would be the "reinforced" part. For structures like schools and commercial buildings codes typically require the blocks to be filled with cement and reinforced with rebar. Such a wall can be load bearing and is comparable to a form-poured wall.
posted by localroger at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2013


[This is a super inappropriate time to start the "Who I am not sympathetic to" or "Who deserves shame" conversation. Please reconsider. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2013 [18 favorites]




In case you missed it in the MeTa thread, thatothrgirl posted a video from her workplace in Moore.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2013


HEY CHRIS YOU GOOFBALL GET IN THE BASEMENT
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is an amazing video. It shows the formation and touchdown of the tornado, and then watches it grow into something really horrific.(from reddit).

It is amazing and terrifying and the guy who took that video is an idiot. "Hey, there's a huge tornado headed right at my car. I think I'll drive a few rows farther into this parking lot. I'll be safe there!"
posted by mudpuppie at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2013


Empathy is strategy.

I live in New Orleans (which, for the record, votes very strongly Democratic). For the past 8 years, whenever I've gone to the (staunchly Republican) countryside, I've gotten a taste of the effectiveness of that strategy.

"People in New Orleans ask for handouts!" they complain. "Over here, we help ourselves out!"

Yes, you, FEMA, Road Home, various church groups, and even random individuals cleaned this place up in the aftermath of various storms. But sure, you did it all by yourself; let's go with that. The level of disconnect it takes to receive that much help and still go on about how you did it all yourself and people should stop asking for "handouts" is incredible.

I'm not saying we should cut aid to victims of disaster; far from it. But I well understand the urge to say, before handing it out, "So, how did you vote in the last election?"
posted by CoureurDubois at 9:39 AM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Here's a stabilized version of that video, even more impressive.
posted by Perplexity at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


But I well understand the urge to say, before handing it out, "So, how did you vote in the last election?"

I don’t understand that at all. It’s exactly the opposite of the reason we have this country.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


It is amazing and terrifying and the guy who took that video is an idiot.

Sorry, maybe "idiot" was unnecessary. It's just that I grew up in tornado country, and I was taught from a very early age to fear and "respect" their unpredictability. They don't move in straight lines. No matter how smart you think you are, you're not always going to outsmart the tornado, and you shouldn't play hide-and-seek with it from your puny little tin can of a car.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:42 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don’t understand that at all. It’s exactly the opposite of the reason we have this country.

Yes, and this is why I still support distributing aid -- because I'm a decent human being. But it's not hard to understand how people can get pissed off enough to suggest (however half-seriously) we do otherwise when you get to put up with this kind of nonsense on a regular basis.
posted by CoureurDubois at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


i dunno - to me it sounds like the reverse side of the coin of "don't tip your waitresses, they just voted for obama because they're takers!" - except even worse really because we're talking about aid after a disaster. the only real difference is that i ideologically align with people who support aid and healthcare.
posted by nadawi at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


No matter how smart you think you are, you're not always going to outsmart the tornado, and you shouldn't play hide-and-seek with it from your puny little tin can of a car.

I guess I can maybe understand the "i'm gonna sit in my car and film this as long as i can" thing. What I really cannot fucking comprehend is the "i'm gonna film this WHILE DRIVING". That car is potentially your only method of escape from the GIANT FUNNEL OF DEATH that is approaching you, and you're gonna risk crashing it into something? Maybe into someone else and now both of you are stuck?

eep.
posted by elizardbits at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2013


if anyone is donating items instead of cash, my town just passed on a request for rain gear. we're having another day of thunderstorms and the first responders need ponchos and thick socks and heavy duty gloves. our first wave of cops just came home about half an hour ago - pretty sure they headed out to moore just as soon as the storm cleared off the road enough for them to get there. other specific items requested have been Toilet Paper, Paper towels, Baby Wipes, Diapers, Snack Food, Bottled Water, Trash Bags, and Pet Food.
posted by nadawi at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope, I still can't watch these videos.

I grew up in MN and well remember tornado drills and the first-Wednesday-of-the-month-at-one-o'clock civil defense siren tests. Now I live on the East Coast, but I am still afraid of tornadoes.

Two summers ago we were visiting family, and while coming home from the lake we heard about tornadoes in the area. We pulled into the next rest stop as the sky turned green-black. I looked up at the edge of the lot and saw a funnel over the trees, so my dad & I grabbed the youngest kid, screamed at the other one to RUN, and made it into the building along with a crowd of other people (50? 75 maybe).

We found the one stretch of hallway with no widows facing it and just stood there, shivering in wet clothes in the A/C, and waited for the Fist Of God to come down on us. A few folks could get weather news via their phones, and after a while there was an all-clear. But I still hate the feeling of sustained flinching.

God bless those poor people.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on May 21, 2013




At about the 3:00 mark of that video, how far does everyone think the video guy is from the edge of the twister?
posted by Eyebeams at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2013


having watched that terrifying thing twice, i am going to venture not far enough.

but seriously, it barely seems like a mile. looks like maybe a 10-15 min walk from where he is to those buildings and it seems to be just behind those buildings.
posted by sio42 at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2013


David Foster Wallace: “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” DFW essay about growing up in tornado country; relevant tornado anecdote about 4/5 the way into the essay.

This is the part I always come back to:

"[Tornadoes] made no sense. Houses blew not out but in. Brothels were spared while orphanages next door bought it. Dead cattle were found three miles from their silage without a scratch on them. Tornadoes are omnipotent and obey no law. Force without law has no shape, only tendency and duration. I believe now that I knew all this without knowing it, as a kid."

I am a Joplin native. When I was last home (Christmas), the devastation was still evident, despite the significant rebuilding that has been done. It takes a long, long time to come back from something like this. Watching it happen again is just heartbreaking.
posted by naoko at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Don Staley's shelter was of any help in this level of intensity of storm?

I wonder if Don Staley got the fuck out of Dodge before he needed to find out if he would live through his FOURTH TORNADO.
posted by MissySedai at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I believe the only immediate response to disaster should be compassion and aid. Not blame or shaming people for voting the wrong way.

However, I recognize that we have a capital “C” Communications issue on our hands, with people not understanding what services they receive which are, in fact, government programs designed to alleviate suffering. We have tried explaining that disaster relief services are not gifts for the lazy but assistance for the devastated and we’ve failed. Frankly, the far right excels at language manipulation and the left is never going to beat them at that game. So, I propose we join them.

Re-label all the forms. Make new t-shirts for aid workers. Edit the signage on tents and trucks.

“Sir, I am so sorry to hear your house was destroyed. Are you ok? Is your family ok? Oh, your daughter has a bad cut on her leg? Ok, my colleague here is going to take her over to the tent for medical handouts. Yes, they’re going to treat her wound, stitch her up, she’ll be good as new and it won’t cost you anything today because it’s a handout paid for by tax payers. Yes, sir, that does mean you’ve paid into it already, as has Brian, a dancer living in New York, and Caridad, a housekeeper living in San Diego, though neither of them are likely to ever need handouts. Most American taxpayers are happy to support you with handouts in your time of need.

Now, it sounds like you and your family may be in need of a place to stay, yes? Ok, I’m going to help you fill out this form for a shelter handout, and in 2-3 weeks we’ll have a process for applying for a long-term housing handout. Please, have a seat for right now and help yourself to some food and water handouts. I’ll get the rest of your handout paperwork started.”
posted by philotes at 10:22 AM on May 21, 2013 [65 favorites]


At about the 3:00 mark of that video, how far does everyone think the video guy is from the edge of the twister?

Not even remotely far enough.
posted by MissySedai at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2013


Make new t-shirts for aid workers.

Can I suggest printing on them, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
posted by Drinky Die at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2013 [21 favorites]


Not even remotely far enough.

Yes, well if sio42 is right and it's about a mile away, Bill Nye (I think) said on the news last night that tornadoes can go 35 mph so — less than 2 minutes away? That's pretty scary.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:30 AM on May 21, 2013


at plaza towers elementary cars are being found in the cafeteria and library.
posted by nadawi at 10:32 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Using this thread to expore one's contempt and lack of sympathy for Midwesterners and Southerners is pretty shoddy behavior.
posted by Area Man at 10:38 AM on May 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is an amazing video. yt It shows the formation and touchdown of the tornado,

That guy is crazy and the video is amazing.

We were driving back to San Francisco from the Sierra foothills one time, with thunderstorms chasing us across the Central Valley. Our route put us on 205 through Tracy; traffic was moving but heavy, and at one point I glanced out the window and a little behind us and saw a weird cloud and said "Hey, look at that weird cloud!" It looked like a twisting finger reaching for the ground. It looked like....

And none of us knew exactly what to do, including the one person in the car who grew up in the Midwest and had had tornado drills in school. We were in a car on a freeway, surrounded by other cars, in an area we weren't familiar with. It was very hard to judge how far away the cloud was (except "not far enough,") and impossible to tell what direction it was moving relative to our position. We just kept driving. The finger retracted into the cloud cover. We all kissed our cats when we got home.
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Philotes, I wish I could favorite your comment more than once.

Though the word "handouts" might not be enough on its own; it tends to sour in many people's ears, and you can't count on being asked the right questions to get to the relevant information. Maybe "United States Taxpayer-Funded Food/Water/Shelter/Medical Care Because We Take Care of One Another" tents. I'm sure the media people can come up with something snappier -- maybe a clever acronym.

And yeah, t-shirts that mention how the wearer's salary, and the supplies they are distributing, and the organization that allows them to HELP OTHER AMERICANS SURVIVE A TRAGEDY are paid for by, you know, TAXES, would be nice.

And I am a Midwesterner--my opinion has nothing to do with "contempt" for citizens of one region or another, and everything to do with the pathetic failure of almost every system America has at its disposal of creating a culture of informed awareness rather than ignorance, fear, and hate.
posted by tzikeh at 10:47 AM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


The thing that is really stressing me out right now is seeing the little ones without shoes walking over rubble and debris that must be sharp and contaminated with all sorts of nasty stuff. Does anyone know if relief kits come with shoes?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:51 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive my question but, shouldn't it be manditory for all schools and hospitals to have basements constructed or some large storm shelter to help this out?

This is somewhat debatable. On average any particular piece of property will only get hit by an EF-2 (when serious bad things start happening) once every thousand years or so. Shelters are expensive. If it cost ~$100K each to build a shelter at every one of Oklahoma's 1812 public schools you are looking at ~180 million dollars. And then afterwards there is the annual upkeep on those shelters. The money might be more cost effectively spent on other programs that could prevent more deaths.

Designing new schools to be more tornado resistant or incorporating tornado shelters into the structure could be much more cost effective. A gym/tornado shelter or music hall/tornado shelter might work well. If the at risk states standardized on say a monolithic dome1 gymnasium for all future schools that was designed for tornado resistance (mostly in the size, type and placement of doors) the cost per school might be greatly reduced. Still it would take a long time before all schools had a shelter as old facilities were replaced with new.

[1] Monolithic domes are usually pretty poor buildings as buildings because the coupound curve of the walls creates awkward internal shapes. But for covering a basketball court at a school that is less of an issue. You want a big open space; the floor area left over after squaring the circle can be used for other activies or seating and the wall/floor interface area with it's low ceiling height could be used for storage of emergancy supplies.
posted by Mitheral at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Oklahoma, about 55% of residents have computers, and 45% of residents have internet access.

Can I ask where you got those numbers from, and how recent they are? In 1995 I was the entire tech support department (just one guy at the beginning) for ioNET / Internet Oklahoma in OKC, and dealt firsthand with a lot of people getting connected to the 'Net for the first time.

My first day as a full-time employee - I'd previously taught "Introduction to the Internet" classes twice a week in exchange for a free unlimited dialup account - was April 19, 1995. Heck of a day. Normal operations were abandoned; we were focused on working with other ISPs in town and getting as much information about the tragedy out via the Internet as possible and supporting recovery efforts.

Even back in '95-96, I would say the numbers would have been at least 35/45%, and that was almost twenty years ago. So I think 55/45% is low for 2013.
posted by mrbill at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2013


Yes, well if sio42 is right and it's about a mile away, Bill Nye (I think) said on the news last night that tornadoes can go 35 mph so — less than 2 minutes away? That's pretty scary.

Tornadoes average about 35-40mph, but some have been clocked at up to 70mph.

We had an F0 blow through here in 2007 that was on the ground for 35 miles, and had been clocked at 50mph. I was with my family and one of Younger Monster's friends at the German-American Festival, outside, having a great time. We watched the sky turn green, then the tornado forming. We started running for one of the Festival grounds' permanent buildings before the sirens sounded, the big doors were pulled down maybe two minutes after the rotation started, and the storm hit directly about a minute after that.

An F0 doesn't sound like a big deal - and compared to the devastation in OK, it isn't - but "scary" doesn't even cover it when it howls through a Festplatz and you're smashed into a glorified garage with 300 of your now very closest friends. It's TERRIFYING. When the All Clear sounded, we stayed to help clean up a bit, then went home to find this had happened to our neighbors.

Buddy doing the filming? Out of his damned mind.
posted by MissySedai at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2013


This site says for Oklahoma, "2,530,656 Internet users as of June/10, 67.9% of the population".
posted by mrbill at 11:02 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The stat that I've seen is that broadband adoption is about average, but OK is one of the states where almost everyone in the state has access to some sort of broadband (meaning literally if they could pay they could get it, am not arguing that they could or should pay) which makes it a very interesting study case. And yes for rural households 55% may seem low but it's pretty close.
In Oklahoma, the rate of residential broadband adoption was 62.5% in 2010, slightly below the national average of 65%. However, this rate masks a significant “digital divide” between rural and urban parts of the state, with 68% of urban households having a broadband connection compared to only 50% of rural households (ESA and NTIA, 2011).
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can I ask where you got those numbers from, and how recent they are?

US Census Bureau, 2003. Go down to page 5. I tried finding figures more recent than that, but those are the most recent available.

I've been working on the internet since 2002, and those figures sounded low to me, too. But, of course they would, because when you're up to your hairline in the 'net all day, every day, it's very easy to believe that everyone is.
posted by MissySedai at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2013


It's probably upwards of 75% now: 2003 was a long time ago!
posted by Justinian at 11:11 AM on May 21, 2013


Because it came up in my discussion about this horrific event in another conference, I wanted to link the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety FORTIFIED program. I don't think better building practices would have helped in Moore—because my God—but the results are nonetheless impressive.

My correspondent remarked that his European acquaintances are stunned when they see how shoddily most American homes are built. He said, "In all seriousness many, many Europeans see how homes are built in America and conclude that America is infected with some sort of national insanity."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2013


"Our country's processes are broken."

I read this as Our country's promises are broken, but both are true.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


"In all seriousness many, many Europeans see how homes are built in America and conclude that America is infected with some sort of national insanity."

If only the buildings were the sole symptom....
posted by Floydd at 12:14 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


TIL I am living in a third world country :(
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2013


Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, Face Difficult Options On Disaster Relief

As frantic rescue missions continued Monday in Oklahoma following the catastrophic tornadoes that ripped through the state, it appeared increasingly likely that residents who lost homes and businesses would turn to the federal government for emergency disaster aid. That could put the state's two Republican senators in an awkward position.

Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief...

Oklahoma currently ranks third in the nation after Texas and California in terms of total federal disaster and fire declarations, which kickstart the federal emergency relief funding process. Just last month, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state following severe snowstorms.

And despite their voting record on disaster aid for other states, both Coburn and Inhofe appear to sing a different tune when it comes to such funding for Oklahoma.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2013


I grew up in Massachusetts and I remember one tornado watch. My entire experience with tornadoes was the Wizard of Oz (I know, I know), and I was terrified of them. Still am, except now with good reason - I moved to Missouri almost eight years ago. I'm with the people up-thread who would rather go through a hurricane; having done that several times and seen the damage they cause, hurricanes still don't terrify me the way tornadoes do, and I haven't experienced one firsthand (yet? let's hope not.)

My stories are these: first, my husband was telling me a story about his littlest boy, three at the time and now 12. He was running around the house when the monthly tornado siren test happened, and the siren was directly in front of the house. Little man tripped over a toy and hit the floor the second the siren started, and he thought he'd done it and was in a flat-out panic. If you've never heard one, those sirens are LOUD, and it was about 30 feet away. My reaction was, "Wait, back up - monthly tornado siren test?" I'd never heard of such a thing. I asked, "What happens if a tornado hits at 1100 on the first Wednesday of the month?" and my husband said, "A lot of people are going to die." That's comforting.

Fast forward a year to when I moved here. We were out doing laundry before we got our machines, and at about 1500 the sky went practically black, all the streetlights came on, and it got really, really eerie. Then the clouds went green - glowing, fluorescent green. I had never seen anything like it. Sirens were going off everywhere, and the ladies in the store next door to the laundromat popped out and said as calmly as you please, "We have a full basement if we need it." Nothing touched down that day, but it was one hell of a welcome to the state.

I have since sat through several warnings, either huddled in the most interior basement room in the house with three kids, a dog, a cat and two pet rats (the first time) or watching television in the basement while corralling all the animals and debating if I needed to wake up my husband to take shelter (when he was working nights and sleeping during the day). One has never even gotten close, but the uncertainty and the fear and the inescapable feeling that if the damn thing hits, there is literally nothing I can do is just unbearable. My heart breaks for people who have been through it, and I'm happy to see the casualty numbers are getting smaller (although one is too many).
posted by jennaratrix at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pres. Obama helpfully reminds us that hurricane season begins next week.
posted by maggieb at 12:34 PM on May 21, 2013


NPR: Oklahoma's GOP Senators Find Themselves In Tornado Aid Bind

...in an MSNBC appearance Tuesday morning, Inhofe characterized the Sandy aid bill as "totally different" from legislation that would provide assistance to Oklahoma.
posted by Snerd at 12:35 PM on May 21, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, Face Difficult Options On Disaster Relief
Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn Will Seek To Offset Tornado Aid, Igor Bobic, Talking Points Memo, 20 May 2013


Coburn’s Office Slams ‘Crass’ Critics On Oklahoma Disaster Aid, Sahil Kapur, Ibid., 21 May 2013
Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) office on Tuesday afternoon slammed critics of his position that any additional disaster relief funds to tornado victims in his state must be offset with spending cuts.

"It is crass for critics to play disaster aid politics when first responders are pulling victims from the rubble," his office said in a memo to reporters.

Inhofe: Oklahoma Disaster Relief Will Be Different Than ‘Slush Fund’ For Sandy, Brian Beutler, Ibid., 21 May 2013
“[Sandy aid] was totally different,” Inhofe said on MSNBC Tuesday morning. “They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”
posted by ob1quixote at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's different because he'll vote yes on this one. Duh.
posted by Big_B at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


philotes, I love your comment so damn much.

If there's a benevolent Greater Power out there, I truly hope it does right by the people affected by this tornado.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2013




...in an MSNBC appearance Tuesday morning, Inhofe characterized the Sandy aid bill as "totally different" from legislation that would provide assistance to Oklahoma.

In a MetaFilter comment Tuesday afternoon, Room 641-A characterized Inhofe as "a climate change denying dick."
posted by Room 641-A at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of our local meteorologists is reporting NWS confirmation of EF-5 damage.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2013


For people who are wishing there is something other than donate that they can do, here's what I did when I was feeling that way after the tornado in Joplin; I signed up to be a volunteer with the Red Cross. Every chapter has it's own roles for volunteers, but I was able to train to be a Disaster Action Team member and I am on call to respond to local house fires one day a week. If a big tornado or other disaster hits in this area, I'm already trained and can actually help; I'd be deployed with my chapter with supplies and the training to do something. If I had the capability, I could also deploy to other areas to help; many of our chapter volunteers went to the east coast for Sandy and I'm sure they're on their way to Oklahoma now. It helped me to get rid of that feeling of uselessness I had after Joplin when I realized there was literally nothing I could do except get in the way. I'm hoping I never get called, but if I do, I can help. Just a thought.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:09 PM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you've never heard one, those sirens are LOUD, and it was about 30 feet away. My reaction was, "Wait, back up - monthly tornado siren test?" I'd never heard of such a thing. I asked, "What happens if a tornado hits at 1100 on the first Wednesday of the month?" and my husband said, "A lot of people are going to die." That's comforting.

They don't do those test on the scheduled days if there is even a slight risk that there could be a real tornado. For me the test are the 3rd Wednesday at 10 am.
They are totally loud but I am totally capable of standing right next to them, still continue with my conversation and never notice they went off.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 1:11 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


As horrible as tornadoes are, it never before occurred to me that they'd be a reason not to live in a state or geographic area. Which is odd, because I do feel that way about hurricanes and earthquakes. I suppose we mostly just get used to the dangers that are common in our native areas.

When I was a kid, we'd all be in the basement together, and then my dad would suddenly decide that he should go get us some pizza. Really, he'd just drive toward the tornado to take a look. Really stupid behavior, I know, but I think it was exciting for him. Some people, like him and my wife, find tornadoes fascinating.

Our sirens are tested at 1pm on the first Wednesday of the month.
posted by Area Man at 1:30 PM on May 21, 2013


QueerAngel28: Right, but because everyone here knows that the first Wednesday at 1100 is the monthly test, if there actually is a tornado at that time (unlikely, they tend to hit later in the day, this one was an anomaly in that regard), I wonder how many people would disregard the warning thinking it was just the test?
posted by jennaratrix at 1:38 PM on May 21, 2013


jennaratrix: " If you've never heard one, those sirens are LOUD, and it was about 30 feet away. My reaction was, "Wait, back up - monthly tornado siren test?" I'd never heard of such a thing. I asked, "What happens if a tornado hits at 1100 on the first Wednesday of the month?" and my husband said, "A lot of people are going to die." That's comforting."

Ours are first Tuesday at 10 a.m. If it's even drizzly, they don't do it, and they test it the next Tuesday instead. With the internet and whatnot a lot of cities post on facebook or twitter now if they're postponing a test. I've lived in tornado siren places my whole life, and I've never ever been confused about whether I'm hearing a regular test or a Tuesday morning tornado. (They also tend to be tested at a time of day when tornadoes are not as common, because they are more common at some times of the day than others.)

My younger child calls it "THE NOISY" (like some sort of Stephen King creature) and gets really excited whenever "THE NOISY" goes off, which to him appears totally random.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


jennaratrix: "I wonder how many people would disregard the warning thinking it was just the test?"

Seriously nobody, because they go off rarely enough that people don't get used to it -- you hear it going off, and you look up. You realize the sky is clear and go, "Oh, right, tornado siren test." It goes off on test day and it's overcast and raining, you look at the sky and it doesn't SEEM tornadoey but you go, "I think I better go turn on the radio." Or, these days, "Does my smartphone have a tornado alert?" I mean, sirens make people pay attention -- I live three blocks from a fire station and I stop what I'm doing every single time they leave the firehouse to be like "siren? danger?" -- and it's pretty trivial these days to check local media for weather info.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:44 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess I still haven't acclimated to the area; intellectually I know all that but still think about it. For the first few years, I jumped a MILE if I was near a siren for the test. The one at work is right outside the window, and I can't get used to how eerie it sounds. And loud. Jesus, is it loud, for good reason I know. I can't hear them in my neighborhood at all and so got a weather radio; I hate that stupid panic-inducing thing.

I like "THE NOISY." I think I'll call it that from now on.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:45 PM on May 21, 2013


As horrible as tornadoes are, it never before occurred to me that they'd be a reason not to live in a state or geographic area. Which is odd, because I do feel that way about hurricanes and earthquakes. I suppose we mostly just get used to the dangers that are common in our native areas.

Having moved from Chicago to the Bay Area to Minneapolis, 'no tornadoes' beats 'no earthquakes' for me when moving in the future and I'm pretty scared of earthquakes. Because as much as I'm worried about being killed by the BART tunnel failing when the Hayward fault inevitably goes, I'll take that over sitting in the basement with my cat wondering what the hell's going on multiple times a summer. (It would really help if there were an all clear signal because it's sometimes less than clear from the radio.)

Seriously nobody, because they go off rarely enough that people don't get used to it -- you hear it going off, and you look up. You realize the sky is clear and go, "Oh, right, tornado siren test." It goes off on test day and it's overcast and raining, you look at the sky and it doesn't SEEM tornadoey but you go, "I think I better go turn on the radio."

For the record, I check my watch and think if it's the first Wednesday, not look out the window. I grew up in an area where you couldn't hear the siren, so I never actually heard the test until I went to college. The first time I heard it there (which was in the spring semester--I had class in a below-ground lecture hall the first semester and we couldn't hear it), I looked out the window and thought "Sky's okay... Are we having an air raid?" But after that the first Wednesday at noon thing got pretty well engrained and that reflex migrated to 1pm when I moved.

I also don't think our tests get postponed. They may get cancelled, but if so they're not rescheduled. (I don't know if I'd notice an absence of the test. But I hear it if I'm at home or on campus and I'm pretty sure I've not heard on one on the wrong day/week in five years here.)
posted by hoyland at 1:58 PM on May 21, 2013


Yeah, I grew up in central Ohio, hearing stories of the Xenia tornado and doing the yearly school tornado drill on that anniversary. I was absolutely scared to death of tornado season (and severe thunderstorms in general). We had siren tests every Wednesday at noon. Somehow the "noon Wednesday" thing never bothered me, but there is something particularly awful about waking up in the middle of the night as a kid to a tornado siren.

When I moved to Massachusetts for college, early on that first fall I made a comment to a project team I was on that I thought I'd heard a tornado siren that morning. One person, from Texas, said "huh, that's weird." The other two people, from Vermont and Arizona, said, "what's a tornado siren?" and, upon checking, multiple others in the room -- including those who had grown up in New England -- had the same question. Which then sent me into a panic wondering what on earth would notify us if there were ever a tornado in Massachusetts...? And so few people have proper basements! Where are you supposed to go?!

Though moving to Mass, and only experiencing tornado watches toward the end of my ten years there, did allow me to finally start to relax during spring/early summer thunderstorms and learn to enjoy them. Growing up I had never understood why people found the sound of thunder and rain relaxing. I now live in the southwest UK, where we haven't had any thunderstorms recently but we have had a number of hailstorms, and THAT I'm still not used to experiencing without an immediate surge of adrenaline and listening for severe weather reports. Ugh. Fuck tornados.
posted by olinerd at 2:39 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Texas and am long familiar with tornadoes. Not long after I moved to Brooklyn (Midwood), I was home early from work one Friday afternoon. Imagine my terror when I heard the sirens go off in the late afternoon. I thought it must be a tornado, or a terrorist attack or something; couldn't find anything online or on the radio. I was a complete wreck. Turns out it's somebody in the neighborhood who uses an air-raid siren to announce the start of Sabbath. Which is fine in principle, but tornado sirens? Really?
posted by orrnyereg at 2:45 PM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


urns out it's somebody in the neighborhood who uses an air-raid siren to announce the start of Sabbath. Which is fine in principle

No it isn't
posted by thelonius at 3:12 PM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


These Birds of a Feather: "Does anyone know if relief kits come with shoes?"

There is a local shoe store providing shoes and socks through the relief center at the First Baptist Church.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:32 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good blog entry here with an aerial time-lapse: Oklahoma Tornado
posted by bitmage at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just heard KOCO report that the Warren Theatre is reopening on Friday. It's the place next to Moore Medical Center that they're using as the staging area. If they're reopening, that sounds to me like maybe they've got a plan to move the staging operation later this week, which is basically in the part of the theatre parking lot next to the Moore Medical Center.
I stayed home today to avoid the commute to work up in OKC, but I won't have that luxury tomorrow or Thursday. There is no way for me to get to and from work without driving through the path of destruction unless I drive 45 min-1 hour out of my way, so I'll have to get used to seeing the devastation 2x per day, 5x per week for the next few months. Not sure I'm ready to do that yet, but at least I have a family and a home to which I can leave and return, so I have zero standing to complain about anything right now.
As I was writing this, the local news just caught another dog/homeowner reunion. The doggie belonged to the homeowner's 3 year old son and was found while the owner was sifting through debris. The doggie's name is Phoenix and she is adorable and she is hugging the homeowner. My eyes are leaking again.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:13 PM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the updates, Dr. Zira. Any idea where donation money would be the most help today? I donated some money to the Red Cross yesterday and keep trying to post "how to help" links, but I also know that sometimes the immediate post-disaster needs change from day to day.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2013


We don't have tornado sirens in NC (at least where I live) but you can sign up for a service with the tv station where they will text you in case of severe weather. If it's severe enough your phone will make a really really intense warning sound (think emergency broadcast system sound) and if you didn't realize your phone would do THAT it will certainly get your attention.


When I first got it I had a different phone carrier and that April a couple of years ago when our tornado went through? I got the text an hour afterward. They've worked out the glitches since, but yep, not too comforting at the time.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:55 PM on May 21, 2013


There are a number of local collection points for donation of goods for the victims as well as supplies for the rescue workers. I heard many requests on the radio today for Gatorade as well as baby formula. If I were out of state I'd concentrate on cash donations to minimize the logistical costs. Here's a list of cash donation points:

Red Cross: Donate $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Note: This goes to their national disaster relief fund.
Salvation Army: Donate online here or text STORM to 80888.
Feed the Children: Donate online here.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma: Donate $10 by texting FOOD to 32333
Oklahoma Baptist relief teams: This is one of the big local operations with teams on the ground currently responding in several Oklahoma areas. Through Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at their site here (make sure to check the "Disaster Relief" radio button.
Tulsa Community Foundation Moore/Shawnee* Tornado Relief Fund: Donate here. Make sure that the "Moore/Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund" is selected in the pulldown box. Right now, it looks like it's there by default.
OSU Veterinary Hospital Animal Relief Fund: They are providing care to animals injured in the storms. Donate here.

*Not sure how widely this is being reported nationally, but we had other tornadoes on Sunday in several locations, including Shawnee, Edmond, Bethel Acres and Little Axe.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:57 PM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thank you! I will share this around.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:04 PM on May 21, 2013


Wolf Blitzer asks a tornado survivor if she thanks God. Turns out, not so much.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:41 PM on May 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm so proud of her for not caving to the Jesus pressure.
posted by agregoli at 7:49 PM on May 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


When I was a kid, we'd all be in the basement together, and then my dad would suddenly decide that he should go get us some pizza. Really, he'd just drive toward the tornado to take a look. Really stupid behavior, I know, but I think it was exciting for him. Some people, like him and my wife, find tornadoes fascinating.

I do the same thing. I have driven into some very weird looking clouds just for the thrill of it. I fully admit to being a complete idiot. I also run outside when the sirens go off. Whatever is coming, I want to see it.

But yeah, while this doesn't comfort anyone who has been through one, the odds of someone actually suffering damage in a tornado are pretty long. You've got a far greater risk of devastation living in a flood zone.

Why so much damage in this particular storm? The wind is only part of the equation- all the debris it picks up causes shit-tons of damage. Imagine 100 mph winds. You can survive it. Now imagine it with sand. You'd be scrubbed clean. Now imagine it twice as fast and full of cars, sticks, rocks and dogs. The damage almost feeds on itself. The more stuff it damages, the more stuff it can damage.

(and yes, I think cheap building methods has something to do with it. It's probably cheaper in the macro sense to build cheap and rebuild the stuff that gets messed up. But building strong only ups the tolerance a little. A brick house that has its roof torn off is going to be pretty messed up, maybe even just as costly to fix as replace.)
posted by gjc at 7:50 PM on May 21, 2013


Good blog entry here with an aerial time-lapse: Oklahoma Tornado

That's a great piece, bitmage. That time-lapse video is astonishing, especially at the end, where the tornado just...ends. Strange and terrifying and beautiful. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 7:50 PM on May 21, 2013


I'm so proud of her for not caving to the Jesus pressure.

Or the sarcastic atheist, "Yeah, thanks Lord for ONLY destroying my home."
posted by Drinky Die at 7:50 PM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Buried link underneath dramatic photo at the top of the reddit FP.

Credit Union Times: Life-Saving Vault Stands Amid CU Branch Rubble

Surrounded by a huge pile of rubble stands a concrete-encased vault that protected the lives of 14 employees and 10 members who were at a Tinker Federal Credit Union branch Monday afternoon when a monstrous tornado ripped through the city of Moore, Okla.

They huddled together in the vault while the violent tornado was obliterating everything around them, including the 6,387-square-foot branch and the cars in the parking lot.

posted by charlie don't surf at 8:10 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


“You are? Alright, don’t thank the Lord,” said Wolf.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by homunculus at 8:10 PM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]




As a native Okie, I think it's abhorrent to play this "punish the victims" attitude. At the same time, I want to see Inhofe and Coburn feel it, just a little. Mainly Inhofe -- Coburn is a decent man and consistent as the sunrise, but Inhofe is a hypocritical moron whose time is well long past and desperately needs to be primaried for the sake of the state.

Mind you, there are a lot of racist, xenophobic folk down there, and you tend to see the nerds, geeks, queers, and other weirdos become Okie expatriates in places like Dallas or Seattle or New York. But it's still where we're from and where we go back to, where our families are, where our friends still live. It's a place, with people who need a little more mercy than their politicians can spare.

So, let's make Inhofe and Coburn squirm. But then let's get the relief moving. And agree to stop playing these games with people in need.
posted by dw at 9:14 PM on May 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I live in central OKC, and was on the way to a doctor's appointment yesterday about 2:15. Now, here's how the previous 5 days had played: I was in Cleburne, TX, Wednesday of last week when the EF-4 went through about 3 blocks from my parents' home, and was in Edmond, OK, Sunday visiting friends when the tornado hit there about a mile away, so I'm a little gunshy about twisters, and frankly, pretty fucking tired of storm sirens and blackouts at this point.

Soon as the hail starts, I U-turned as soon as I could, and headed directly for the elementary school of my best friend's eldest daughter (Isabella--Grade 1, 7 years old, sweetest girl alive), who I usually pick up from school, 'cause I know that what's about to happen; and I know that if I waited any longer, the sirens would already be going off before I could get there.

Sure enough, I got to the school, and got out of the car to make sure I have my umbrella (it was in the trunk), and no sooner did they begin. One of the teachers came out and asked all the parents to come inside with everyone else down to the basement. Kids were in the "position," we all had our phones to see where the hell the storm actually was, 'cause we obviously didn't hear the deathtrain a-rollin' anywhere near us, but the signal is putsched because we're in a giant cinder block underground, so we don't know much of anything. A few minutes later, the sirens stop, and we wait for the go-ahead. The principal lets those of us who are there to pick up the kids sign them out if we want, though against their recommendation (we live about 3 blocks from the school, and again, we would have heard the tornado over the sirens, had it been anywhere near), so we went home.

The end result is, Gwen (aforementioned best friend), Celia and Isabella (the daughters, 3 and 7), and I are all safe and sound, if not at least a little rattled, and I arrive to see the footage of another elementary school just like the one we were just in, flattened, with people praying that anyone is still alive in it; we watch helplessly as whole housing developments are reduced to nothing; just pure undiluted ichor, spilling out for the masses to see, with nothing to do but either watch, hide, or die.

I've been watching local feeds and CNN far too much the last day and a half, and my heart keeps breaking. "We're safe. We're home. How...Holy...fuck."

Everyone I know who lives in Moore was fortunate, and stayed safe throughout, and today I felt compelled to donate a significant portion of the reduced income I'm currently taking in on short-term disability to both the OK Red Cross and Salvation Army.

There, but for the grace of God, go we.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 9:39 PM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Video of the tornado passing overhead. Absolutely terrifying. Via PetaPixel.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 1:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


“You are? Alright, don’t thank the Lord,” said Wolf.

Christ, what an asshole.


Due to the way words are arranged in that quote, for a second there, while scanning quickly down the page, I thought homunculus had called me an asshole. :-O
posted by lord_wolf at 7:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heh. Nope, wrong Wolf.
posted by homunculus at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2013




I don't think this has been linked here yet:
Tornado survivor's dog survives being buried alive in rubble; is discovered during live television interview.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:07 PM on May 22, 2013


Nope, it was linked way up above; mods feel free to remove
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:12 PM on May 22, 2013




If it's severe enough your phone will make a really really intense warning sound (think emergency broadcast system sound) and if you didn't realize your phone would do THAT it will certainly get your attention.


On Wednesday night, as I began watching one of the videos of the approaching tornado linked in this thread, my phone decided to make this exact intense emergency noise to alert me to severe thunderstorms in the area.

I might have yelped out loud and scared the cat maybe.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:55 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]




God bless America.

You Just KNEW There Would Be 'Tornado Truthers,' Didn't You?, Jason Linkins, The Huffington Post, 22 May 2013

Why Did Obama Make Those Tornadoes? Ask the Tornado Truthers!, Ken Layne, Gawker, 21 May 2013

Alex Jones Is a Tornado Truther Because, Obviously, Max Rivlin-Nadler, Gawker, 22 May 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 10:20 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]




Updates from the area:
  • We had another bunch of storms yesterday morning, which is making more mud, not helpful with the cleanup.
  • I have a friend who lost his home (among random items found on his property: A car in what used to be his kitchen; giant steel storage tank in his backyard; the top of a tornado siren(!)) and there is also spotty cellphone coverage, so he's had to have everyone meet outside the perimeter at certain time and lead everyone in in groups. They lifted the checkpoints today, so hopefully it's going to be easier on homeowners to organize their cleanup crews and get stuff in and out of there. Communication by cellphone is still difficult due to some spotty coverage.
  • As I discovered yesterday when trying to locate housing for family members coming in to help with my friend's cleanup, hotel rooms are in high demand. Go home Wolf Blitzer, we need your room.
  • I-35 traffic is still awful in Moore because of the gawkers, and the traffic is creating it's own hazards as people seem to be getting into more wrecks. Apparently the gawkers are not morning people. I had to fly out for a quick business trip yesterday morning, so it was fine at 4:30 a.m., but when I came back through at 8:30ish, it was backed up, and it's totally gawkers because things speed right up after you pass the Warren. Warren Theatre parking lot was still full of utility trucks, but fewer satellite dishes. According to the Warren's website, they're planning on reopening Wed the 29th. I noticed a couple of workers on the damaged water tower, which is weird because I don't think I've ever seen anyone up there.
  • In response to threats from a certain Vile "Religious" Group (who I will not dignify by naming) to protest at the funerals, The Patriot Guard Riders met at the First Baptist Church and Resthaven Funeral Home today to line up along the streets to keep shield mourners from possible funeral protests. While this is a lovely show of support, it also creates its own set of problems, because the area is already bogged down by traffic anyway, so at the very least, VRG's antics have added to the stress and traffic problems in the area for the ongoing cleanup efforts. So even if VRG doesn't show up, as I suspect they won't, they've succeeded in making things worse. Fuck you, VRG, because it's not just a First Amendment issue; in this case, you are actively making things worse for relief efforts to buy yourselves a little extra publicity.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


the room thing is so true! i know people going to help with various stuff (part of an invited group) and have been having a heck of a time finding a place to stay. i've also been hearing a lot about the traffic from friends in the area. here's hoping something else captures the attention of the nation (maybe roses or puppies or giant bubble parties) so the media and the gawkers will leave.
posted by nadawi at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2013


nadawi: If you know someone looking for a room, have them try the NCED at the postal training center in Norman. It would not have occurred to me to check there, but that's where Sooner Legends referred me when they couldn't get the weekend room I'd reserved.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2013


thanks!
posted by nadawi at 11:16 AM on May 24, 2013




dirigibleman, thanks for that link, because I do have a couple of photos today that I need to scan and post to that Facebook group that I found when helping some friends with cleanup today. Cleanup might be the wrong word, since it's more about sorting through the debris to find anything salvageable. It's a very challenging situation just trying to work and avoid getting cut by nails or glass or scraps of sheet metal in random places. Even with work gloves, we all have cuts and bruises in various places. Fortunately, there are people driving around offering tetanus shots. Any trees still standing are cluttered with random things in the branches; twisted sheet metal, curtains and other bits of cloth. I even saw a mattress in a tree. What's really freaky, is the precision of the storm, because even though my friend's area was basically rubble, you can drive a few hundred feet down to the end of the street and find homes and lawns that are completely untouched, with pristene gardens and lawns.

One of the questions people have been asking is how safe rooms performed versus the underground pod shelter installations. One of our homeowners survived in a closet, but this was a matter of luck, as there was a house a couple of doors down that basically was a front door facade wall standing, but just piles of rubble elsewhere. After spending several hours sifting through rubble and walking on piles of sheetrock, I have definitely decided that one of those underground in-garage shelters is not the way to go unless it is comfortable enough to spend 4-5 hours in waiting for someone to come dig you out, because there was 1-2 feet of soggy crap on top of the garage floor.

It's also interesting seeing the relief work up close, and get a first hand sense of what is and isn't helpful. You can tell when the law enforcement shift changes happen, because that's when the cops start driving by and taking pictures. FEMA seems to be well-armed with clipboards, but fairly useless in other respects, e.g., information on getting heavy equipment in to move something big you need move, like, say, a dumpster in the remains of your garage, or a random car in your kitchen. The Clipboard People, however, will be happy to check on that for you.

Local churches play an important role in assistance. In addition to providing stations to get food, water, and even showers, they are excellent meeting points for getting groups organized to go in and out of neighborhoods. Since you have to have a homeowner to get in and out of the street (or, apparently, a truck full of food and/or water, as they appear to be letting in anyone handing out snacks), it means that once you get a truck loaded up with stuff, one homeowner has to lead making the runs to where they're staying or the storage site to unload the trucks, to get everyone back in and out in the group, and far longer than it should to get through the gawker traffic on the streets which they've opened.

There are portapotties set up everywhere, but we didn't have to use them nearly as much as we thought because we were sweating out all the water and gatorade we were drinking. Also, the answer to "where do I put my empty water bottles or food wrappers" is apparently ANYWHERE. Somehow, worrying about throwing away your empty Doritos bag seems kind of silly when you are basically sitting on a pile of garbage.

Farmers Insurance adjusters have been to the area. I know this because of the yard signs they are leaving in the yards. I can't tell if this is to help them know which of their insured's houses have been reviewed already, or whether it's a very savvy marketing move. Maybe both.

If you ever know of someone in this situation and want to do something helpful, go to the nearest department store or home improvement store and pick up a bunch of plastic bins, because there is nothing else to put the stuff in which you salvage, and when it starts to rain, cardboard boxes become useless. Displaced homeowners have no place to do laundry, so offering to get clothes cleaned or sent to dry cleaners is helpful. I'd heard Tide had set up a laundry facility somewhere in the area, but with all the gawkers driving around, I'm not sure how displaced homeowners are able to find it and get in and out of there easily amidst all of the gawker traffic.

This is awesome: About every hour, someone drives around the neighborhood handing out drinks and snacks. I was told that Pizza Hut had been out the previous two days handing out pizzas. Baptists make excellent hot dogs.* Today there was a guy who'd brought up a smoker and made meals of brisket to hand out, which was awesome.

The consensus (at least in our group) seems to be that someone with a well-stocked bar in the back of their pickup would be very, very welcome relief objective, as no one was able to fulfill our homeowner's request for a martini.

*On preview, I should clarify that the hot dogs are made by, rather than of Baptists.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Another round of tornadoes is hitting the OKC area. Streaming coverage.
posted by rewil at 5:26 PM on May 31, 2013


The Weather Channel truck got tossed, everyone's ok though.
posted by drezdn at 5:34 PM on May 31, 2013


The interstates are jammed right now. The storm chasers are getting stuck in traffic.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:44 PM on May 31, 2013


Thinking of you, Dr. Zira. Hoping for the best of OK.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:19 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]




The stormchaser video in that link is insane. Is that a flaming hay bale they get hit with at about 2:09? And then a (piece of?) truck? Jesus.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many storm chasers work in conjunction with the chopper pilot and meteorologists at the local TV stations. These guys actually are often the first to verify a tornado is on the ground. Radar alone cannot determine 100% that the circulation is, in fact, damaging. These storm chasers save lives and are local heroes. There isn't one Oklahoman that can't name all of the meteorologists and chopper pilots that help us decide when we are safe, or when we need to 'head fer the hidey-hole'. The chasers on the ground are the grunts who validate the technology. These storm chasers are to be applauded and could even be considered heroes for placing themselves in danger to help the rest of us remain safe with accurate, advance warning.

Chasers working for NOAA and others studying storms fall into the same category.

However, the bozos chasing storms for fun, thrills, or YouTube are a menace to not only themselves, but to anyone else caught out in the storm on the road.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Dr. Zira, please check in.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on June 1, 2013


I've been tweeting Dr. Zira and she's fine, fff. Lost power last night, but it's back up now. There are still a lot of power outages all over the city, which may be why we're not hearing more from OKC mefites, but as far as I know everyone's okay.
posted by ormondsacker at 12:25 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thankfully, we got our power back on this morning before it warmed up, but I had to make a run into OKC to do some errands, which took much longer than it should have because of the traffic and the stoplight outages. Judging from the number of stoplight outages, there are still many outages up in South OKC. The I-35 gawkers were out in full force in the Moore area, and it's absolutely maddening.
The traffic situation absolutely enrages me, because as Friday demonstrated (most, if not all of the deaths were in vehicles), it's dangerous. Many offices (mine included) sent us home at 3pm on Friday, and even then the commute was bad, so I am not surprised about the gridlock on the interstates. It also makes it more difficult for storm chasers, and as HyperBlue explained above, they really do play a crucial role in keeping us safe. We get much more detailed information from our live weather reports from the local stations, so as long as we've got power, or access to a working radio, that's the best source of information, in no small part due to the ground information from the spotters. Being stuck on the road, with no easy way to get to a safe place is the most frightening scenario I can think of in this situation.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:33 PM on June 1, 2013




It's a shame to see Tim go. It's also a shame that it wasn't Val fucking Caster. I'm not usually the type to wish physical harm on a person, but he's the one. I want him to get hit in the face with a stop sign.

Fortunately, the tornadoes from this week went just south of my house (I'm on Walker and 26th, so not far from downtown at all), but we had some FUN flash floods! That's a good 2 1/2 feet of water. It ended up cresting that first set of steps before it went down, but it didn't get into the house or anything. We got to watch out the front door and play "Guess what's floating down the river" with the kids.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 11:01 PM on June 2, 2013


You know what would be good for chasing storms?

drones.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:11 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what would be good for chasing storms?

drones.


Yeah because remotely piloted aircraft are immune to radio frequency interference from dense rain and lightning. And we need more stuff flying through the air during a tornado.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:39 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And we need more stuff flying through the air during a tornado.

Better a 100 lb drone than a 3 ton armored SUV.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2013




Holy. Shit. 300mph winds. "If it was two more miles this way, it would have wiped out all of downtown, almost every one of our subdivisions and almost all of our businesses."

And to think, this is just the beginning.

Climate change is scary, y'all.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


'If you liked "Deadly Okla. Tornado Widest on Record, Rare EF5", ABC News .com suggests you might also like: "Epic Golf Fail"'
posted by ormondsacker at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2013


Interactive before and after May 20 map of Moore, Oklahoma.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]




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