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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What It’s Like To Grow Up In Tornado Alley

Two men go through the damage surrounding the Moore Medical Center and damaged vehicals after a tornado moves through Moore, Okla. on Monday, May 20, 2013. (Alonzo Adams/AP)

Two men go through the damage surrounding the Moore Medical Center and damaged vehicles after a tornado moved through Moore, Okla. on Monday, May 20, 2013. (Alonzo Adams/AP)

Oklahomans are used to tornadoes and all kinds of other storms — after all, the region is known as tornado alley.

One of the largest tornadoes to ever hit Oklahoma was in Moore in 1999. Since then there have been three other tornadoes in Moore, including this most recent.

Kelly Frey, editor of The Oklahoman newspaper, is from El Reno, Okla. She told us what it’s like to live there.

Interview Highlights

Growing up in tornado alley

“You knew when the sky was turning dark that you had to get on your bike and hurry home. You knew what to do when the tornado sirens went off. In the schools, for example, we would have tornado drills where we would line up and we would go to the hall and crouch down and put your head against the wall and cover your head up.”

What’s a wall cloud?

“You know if you look up to the sky, generally to the west, and you can see the horizon, and the wall cloud is a really large cloud. It’s got a horizontal line on it, and you can see the gap between the earth and the cloud. And there’s usually some light behind it. But you’ll be able to see little tails dip down out of a wall cloud.”

What happens when you see one?

“You pay attention. Most people tune to the radio or turn on the TV and say, ‘where is the storm?’ We have mobile alerts now. We’re just very well connected to weather and what’s going on. We’re probably more weather aware than other areas of the country.”

Do most people have some kind of tornado shelter?

“They really don’t. After the May 3 [1999] tornado, I think a lot more people did that. That was the worst tornado we had ever seen. After that — I know that when I saw a picture of a foundation and the carpet had all been sucked off, the water had been sucked out of the swimming pool, there was nothing left but the cement slab of the home — that’s when I had a different respect for tornadoes. And a lot of people did. They thought wow, I guess going to the center of your house and putting your batting helmet on would not have been enough in that situation.”


  • Kelly Fry, editor of The Oklahoman, the largest daily newspaper in Oklahoma. She tweets @KelFry.

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