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Okla. helped by storm forecasts

A dark storm reported minutes earlier as a tornado in West Memphis, Ark., crosses over the Pyramid in Memphis on Wednesday.

Associated Press

A dark storm reported minutes earlier as a tornado in West Memphis, Ark., crosses over the Pyramid in Memphis on Wednesday.

PIEDMONT, Okla. — When three tornadoes marched toward Oklahoma City and its suburbs, thousands of people in the path benefited from good forecasts, luck and live TV to avoid the kind of catastrophe that befell Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo.

Even though more than a dozen people died in the latest round of violent weather, schools and offices closed early, giving many families plenty of time to take shelter.

"We live in Oklahoma and we don't mess around," Lori Jenkins of Guthrie said after emerging from a neighbor's storm shelter to find her carport crumpled and her home damaged.

The people of Oklahoma City knew the storms were coming. Anxiety was perhaps running higher than usual after last month's twister outbreak in Tuscaloosa and other parts of the South that killed more than 300 people, and a Sunday storm that killed at least 122 in Joplin, Mo.

The Oklahoma twisters proved to be weaker than the other tornadoes. But the minute-by-minute accounts of the developing weather helped thousands of people stay abreast of the danger.

Television helicopters broadcast live footage while the system approached the metropolitan area of 1.2 million people — calling out to specific communities like Piedmont to "Take cover now!"

On Wednesday, a tornado warning was briefly issued for Kansas City, Mo., and at least two weak tornadoes touched down in or near the suburbs.

In Joplin, the city manager said 125 people had died in Sunday's storm, raising by three the toll of the nation's deadliest single tornado since 1950.

In the Oklahoma City area, at least nine people were killed. In the tiny hamlet of Denning, Ark., a tornado killed one person. Storms left three dead elsewhere in Arkansas and killed two in Kansas.

Okla. helped by storm forecasts

05/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 12:42am]
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