Once again we’re coming to you after another sad week. The weather this May has been incredibly vicious, with a number of lives lost and millions and millions of dollars in damage done.
In the weekend following Friday night’s storms, there has been lots of talk about how some meteorologists advised metro residents to flee during the Tornado. The person getting the most criticism is KFOR’s Mike Morgan. For those who missed it or were watching another channel, Mike apparently suggested a couple of times that anyone who couldn’t get underground should get out-of-the-way. Get to central Moore or to Norman, take I-44, he said. Everyone will be safe there. He said this as Emily Sutton was almost being swept off the road by a tornado that took the lives of other stormchasers:
Unfortunately, the tornado made a sudden, unpredictable and unusual turn as it approached OKC and ended up heading towards Moore and Norman. The combination of hundreds and hundreds of people fleeing and what was already rush hour traffic suddenly led to a horrifying realization: traffic on the highways was at a standstill. The streets were packed, no one could go anywhere, and a tornado was bearing down on them.
And it’s all Mike Morgan’s fault… if you believe what you read on Twitter.
Various weather-people, some well-known and others not so well-known, were aghast at Mike Morgan’s instructions, and said so:
Props to Mike Bettes and Brandon Sullivan for owning up to their massive screw-ups yesterday. Has Mike Morgan/KFOR apologized yet?
— Tony Cristaldi (@WxmanTony) June 2, 2013
Not to get on my soapbox, but we really need to address this new message of having to leave a storm's path in order to survive…
— Rick Mitchell (@RickMitchellWX) June 1, 2013
@jwxman I'd love to see someone take them to court. Interesting legal issues; The whole shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre argument.
— Patrick Marsh (@pmarshwx) June 1, 2013
Why are that many people in their cars in the path of this tornado??? Baffling! #okwx
— Rick Smith (@ounwcm) June 1, 2013
@tyedied52 Leave with no shelter? Who on earth said that?
— Damon Lane (@KOCOdamonlane) June 1, 2013
I want everyone to know that it IS possible to survive a tornado ABOVE ground. You DON'T have to flee, esp. in a metro area! #okwx
— Danielle Dozier (@DanielleDozier) June 1, 2013
— Travis Smith (@wxtrav) June 1, 2013
If you think the professionals were giving it to Mike Morgan bad, do a Twitter search for his name. Viewers were enraged. This is but an infinitesimal sampling of the backlash against his advice..
@SnakeBucket Mike Morgan has almost always overreacted, but this time was reckless. I was watching him in Tampa, literally face palming.
— Joe Bosley (@JoeBosley) June 1, 2013
Telling people to "drive away" during rush hour traffic…you don't want to know my opinion of Mike Morgan.That was beyond irresponsible.
— Gayla Drummond (@Scath) June 2, 2013
So KFOR is just going to protect Mike Morgan by not mentioning that people were caught trying to flee the tornado?
— Daniel Wortham (@drwortham) June 2, 2013
— Stephanie Bice (@stephaniebice) June 1, 2013
Never trust a man with a bedazzled tie.
— Brianna Bailey (@briOKC) June 1, 2013
— Dustin Rogers (@revdustinrogers) June 1, 2013
@RickMitchellWX Telling people to "get underground or drive away" MINUTES before a storm hits is a recipe for disaster.
— Ron Terrell (@RonTerrell) June 1, 2013
I am VERY displeased with KFOR's Mike Morgan telling people to get in their cars when the tornado was coming. Have you not learned anything?
— Andrew Gorton WALB (@AndrewGortonWx) June 1, 2013
— Sean (@soonersean92) June 1, 2013
Firestorm brewing for KFOR and mike Morgan.
— Matt Waller (@4WallerOU) June 1, 2013
Believe me, there is plenty more where that came from. That is just the tip of the iceberg. To be sure: some of this is people just piling on. People get a whiff of outrage, and they want to join in and they get worked up and try to top the last person and the indignation starts to obscure the actual points being made.
But look who added some opportunistic fuel to the fire. Gary England:
Yes, Gary England re-tweeted all of those things. I guess it’s his way of saying “Not in my house.” Others noticed:
gary england just retweeted someone saying that channel 4 should fire mike morgan. that was tacky.
— ashley carman (@armyofskeletons) June 1, 2013
Gary England RT'ing people complaining about Mike Morgan trying to kill people last night. Power move.
— Branden Katona (@brandenkatona) June 1, 2013
As I stated before, some of the criticism is from people just piling on. How much is truly warranted? There’s a good chance that even if he told people to stay in their closet and hide underneath blankets that the highways would have still been packed and traffic slowed to a deadlock. The local media had been warning people all day to have a plan in place. After the paranoia and fear caused by May 20th, I think a lot of people’s plans were to get out-of-the-way if a storm was approaching. Also, this isn’t the first time a local meteorologist has chimed for people to flee a storm. Mike’s done it in the past and Gary England advises it as well under certain circumstances. Also, the fact that this tornado turned when and how it did appears to have been something of a freak occurrence. What if the tornado stayed on track, blossomed into an F5 and hit central Yukon and West Oklahoma City? We may be praising Mike Morgan instead of trying to run him out-of-town.
Then again, this isn’t horseshoes and hand grenades.
Even if someof the outrage is somewhat phony, much of it, a lot of it, is very real. I watched it happen in real-time on Friday night. This isn’t all just a hindsight is 20/20 sort of thing. People are pissed off at channel 4 and Mike Morgan for their coverage, in a way that I can’t remember ever experiencing in this market, because everyone knows how easily it could have been someone they know trapped helplessly in a car as a tornado bore down on them. It feels like something that could be a defining moment.
Is Channel 4 going to respond to a public that — rightly or wrongly — is viewing their coverage on Friday as negligent? Channel 4’s Troy Christensen has already weighed in on the controversy with a mostly thoughtful Facebook post. I encourage everyone to read all of it, but the first two sentences are this:
There has been a lot of talk over the last 36 hours about whether or not outrunning a tornado is the right thing to do. Personally, I would never tell anyone to do such a thing.
But there’s much, much more to it than that, including a good look at the complex issues that face a meteorologist on a night like that. Like I said, it’s a very thoughtful and introspective piece, and everyone should read it. My only issue is with this line:
National/local media outlets and their ‘meteorologists’ looking for a scandal will try to create one.
Sorry, Troy. No media outlet has to try to create a scandal here. Your viewers see one already.
Mike Morgan has a history of engaging his critics and publicly defending his work. I think that’s very admirable, even if I haven’t always agreed with him. I hope he does that again soon, because I’d love to hear his response to his critics and if he thinks the criticism of him has been fair, if he feels like he’s been made a scapegoat, and if he’d defend his performance on Friday night.
That’s all for this week. Hopefully we can return to our normal Monday Morning Tweets next week. You can follow me on Twitter here.