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March 13, 2014

Panelists:Be prepared for storms

MOORE — During a Wednesday evening forum in Moore, panelists discussed the importance of being prepared during sudden outbursts of severe weather and tornadoes.

Panelists included Harold Brooks, researcher at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, Michelann Ooten, deputy director at Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, and Rick Smith, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Norman Forecast Office.

The forum was hosted at the Moore Public Library, less than a mile from where a deadly EF-5 tornado struck May 20, killing 24 people and injuring 377. The forum was sponsored by public radio station KGOU as a part of their special reporting project, “Ahead of the Storm: The Oklahoma Tornado Project.”

During tornado threats, residents should get as low as they can and get walls and barriers between them, Smith said. The National Weather Service surveyed 4,200 structures affected by the May 20 tornado and found that only nine structures had assessed EF-5 level damage.

“If you have shelter, you will be fine,” Smith said.

In the case of all recent large tornadoes that have struck Oklahoma, Smith said the NWS has had advanced warnings several days out. While the NWS knew of the May 20 tornado around May 15, the Norman forecast office is fairly conservative, Smith said.

“If they are talking about it five days in advance, you should pay attention,” Smith said.

You don’t need to change your routine during severe weather, but Smith said residents should remain mindful of severe weather when it occurs.

He said residents should check for shelter options in the community and have a weather plan and kit.

“You can’t do it when the tornado warning hits. You need to do it today,” Smith said.

Smith also encouraged people to have three primary sources to get information during severe weather.

Smith said while smartphones and television are the top ways to stay informed, there is always the chance of a power outage.

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