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Forecasters Combat Tornadoes in American Midwest - 2003-05-13


This has been a rough weather period for much of the American Midwest. Tornadoes raced through the area in recent days, causing death and destruction. One city in the region, Oklahoma city, Oklahoma, has been hit by 3 tornadoes in the last 5 years. But it does have an early warning system that is helping avoid major disaster. VOA-TV’s George Dwyer reports.

This time...

NATURAL SOUND
"Ah, do you have spotters out?"

…they were ready.

NATURAL SOUND
"52 to Weather. I'm on the tornado. It just took out everything east of 240."

Forecasters were expecting tornadoes, and with the help of spotters located across half a dozen states, they coordinated information “on the ground” with weather service data.

MIKE FOSTER, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
"We combine what they're seeing with what we know from our remote sensors, satellite and radar and we get a really good picture of how the weather is evolving."

Then they share what they’ve learned.

NATURAL SOUND
The tornado is crossing Interstate 240 somewhere near Sooner Road."

Sending it out live for the first time ever on National Weather Service radio.

NATURAL SOUND
"A large and violent tornado is located near the General Motors plant."

And on television stations such as Oklahoma City's Channel 5, with information on where the tornado was heading...

NATURAL SOUND
"It's moving northeast at 30."

…and what to do.

NATURAL SOUND
"Get downstairs, get as low as you can. Even if you don't have a basement, you'll be safer." Use helmets if you have them; goggles those are the things that will help protect you."

RICK MITCHELL, CHIEF METEROLOGIST, KOCO-TV
"We definitely can focus in on individual towns and the time of the arrival of the storm, in certain weather situations we may be able to focus in on individual neighborhoods."

It made a real difference in Oklahoma City, hit four years ago by a tornado that killed 44 people. That tornado followed a path almost exactly like last week's. But last week no one died – at the General Motors auto plant, they'd gotten the warnings.

BOB JONES, PERSONNEL DIRECTOR, GENERAL MOTORS OKLAHOMA CITY
"We had approximately 1,100 employees on our second shift. And they took shelter in a very orderly manner."

Thousands more in the tornadoes' paths were warned and took shelter while the storms roared through.

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