NORMAN — Though tornado season rolls into Oklahoma year in and year out, unpredictably dangerous twisters catch many who have no emergency plan off-guard, resulting in injuries or death.
According to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, 48 people died in central Oklahoma storms this year. These deaths — from the May 19, May 20 and May 31 tornadoes in Pottawatomie, Cleveland and Canadian counties, respectively — took place in mobile homes, houses, buildings, vehicles or unknown locations, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. None are recorded as taking place inside a shelter.
Alan Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency media relations specialist, said having a plan — including a communication and sheltering plan for before, during and after a tornado — can make the difference between life and death.
“Obviously, in a situation like a tornado, minutes count. If you’re trying to decide what you’re going to do in those minutes, you’re way behind the game. Minutes save lives, and that’s no joke,” he said. “The best thing you can do is have a plan and have a drill. You have to know what to do in a drill, and the only way to know how to do that is to practice it. If you don’t know where to go in the event of a tornado — that’s a recipe for disaster right there.”
While Oklahoma residents shouldn’t feel paranoid about their safety during tornado seasons, Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Norman Forecast Office, said a healthy respect for these storms goes a long way.
“We have to know it can happen again. It may be next spring, it may be 50 years from now, but it will happen again,” he said. “Having a healthy respect just means having a plan for you and your family about what you’re going to do.”