The death and destruction caused by the massive tornado in Moore Okla., last
month is a sad but timely reminder of the importance of preparation and the
public safety role that broadcasters play.
It’s a macabre
ritual in the Midwest that plays out every spring. And while meteorologists
have made great strides in recent years in determining how these destructive
forces are created, it means nothing if the publicdoesn’t get enough
advance warning. And once again, as with so many disasters, broadcasters were
on the front lines of providing that vital public service.
The tornado, which hit in
mid-afternoon on Monday, May 20, was an EF5 on the “Fujita”
scale and ended up killing 24 and injuring nearly 400 residents of the Moore
area, a suburb of Oklahoma City. At one point during the tornado’s
39-minute life, winds from the 1.3 mile-wide twister reached 210 miles per
hour. It ended up destroying more than 2,400 homes and businesses, causing
between $1.5 billion to $2 billion in damages.
The residents of Moore, who
suffered a similar destructive storm in 1999, were made aware that conditions
were ripe for tornadic activity well in advance of the storm; the Storm
Prediction Center had issueda moderate risk of severe thunderstorms in the
early morning hours of May 20. Such advance warnings may be taken lightly in
other areas of the country, but in tornado alley, the residents are not so
|Debris is all that is left of this
neighborhood after an EF-5 tornado tore through the city of Moore Okla., May
And neither are area TV and radio broadcasters, who provided wall-to-wall
coverage of the storm’s approach, destruction and aftermath. Many put
their lives at risk providing essential information to viewers and first
responders alike. Helicopter crews from local stations were among the first on
the scene to document the massive destruction, the results of which someobservers
compared to a nuclear bomb. Lives were saved as a direct result.
media-saturated environment, we’re all too familiar of the role that
social media plays in relaying information, but as we’ve learned all
too often, we play a dangerous game when such information is not filtered
through reliable sources. And we’ve also learned that regardless of
the ubiquity of cellular technology, such services are often useless in a
In Moore, broadcasting once
again proved its vital importance in life-threatening situations. As one
resident told a reporter, “I was watching News Channel 4 on my phone.
And the last thing I heard before my cell reception went dead was
‘Get out of its way or get underground.’”
As this is being written,
the Moore disaster has quickly faded, giving way to other more immediate news
stories. But it will take months, perhaps years, for area residents to recover
from the disaster. Suffice it to say, local broadcasters will be there to help
citizens in their recovery.
Shortly after the disaster,
KOCO-TV, the local NBC affiliate, broadcast a live concert to raise funds for
the victims, one of many events and coordinated efforts to help in the
recovery. To make a donation, visit https:// moore.recovers.org/