I personally haven't had a close call with the recent weather until last night. The first storm was headed directly to my new apartment that I've lived in for a grand total of almost a week. Our original plans were to hunker down in the interior bathroom under cushions from our couch, but when the projection of the storm was headed toward the street just one block north of us, we decided to drive south to avoid the storm completely. This storm was supposedly one of the "can't survive above ground" storms.
Our upstairs neighbor joined us, and we got in the car to go south...along with probably about 75% of the other residents in my complex.
Let me just say...bad idea.
I suppose with the destruction that happened with the tornados a week ago, everyone in the metro area decided to do the exact same thing. This was unfortunate, as the highways clogged up, and even the back roads became clogged going south and east. Even more unfortunate was that the storms took a turn south, and satellite tornados were starting to pop up. Basically where our car went, the storm decided to follow. We never encountered a tornado thankfully, but a heavy rotation followed us all the way to a town south of Oklahoma City where we found a shelter.
My dad is a police chief in a tiny tiny town approximately 45 miles south of the metro on I35, and said that 3,000 people from Oklahoma City finally stopped in their town at a little casino off the highway. I've never even heard of this type of thing before, where SO many people decided to try to flee a tornadic storm by car than by taking shelter....and that so many people traveled so far south to get away from it. All of us who tried to get out of the way of the tornado by going South were basically chased by rotations as far as we could go - and due to traffic that wasn't very far. Several people were injured by being stuck in traffic jams when a tornado went across the highway.
Yesterday I definitely learned my lesson about not having a plan of action and the consequences of acting on a whim. We found out about two families from our church with tornado shelters, so that is good to know for the future - just wish I had known yesterday.
As a new resident of Oklahoma City, I feel bad for not having researched public tornado shelters near our apartment upon our move in time. While this is a personal problem, I think the state of Oklahoma must also take better initiative in this regard. The state's advice to us all is to seek the best shelter you can find in your current location - which is good for when sirens go off, indicating there is no time to drive somewhere else. However, when the meteorologists are telling the public that chance of survival above ground is significantly decreased, then it seems obvious that most people are not going to just seek shelter in their ground level apartment.
My personal belief is that to avoid this problem of congested highways due to people trying to flee is to release a map of designated local tornado shelters - so that people will take shelter near their homes rather than just driving away until they feel safe. I can understand the government's hesitation to release such a map, as this seems to encourage people to travel during tornado warnings, since the majority of people do not have personal tornado shelters, I think it would be best to release a map of public shelters. We usually know due to the news when a storm that could produce a tornado is headed our way by at least 30 minutes.
What are your thoughts on this issue?