Mike Morgan, an accredited meteorologist with KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, twice called for all residents of South Oklahoma City to 'flee their homes' and 'drive south' when a tornado approached the area on the evening of 31 May 2013. Mr. Morgan described a 'mile-wide debris ball' headed their way.
Hundreds of thousands of people live in South Oklahoma City. Mr. Morgan's call created the dangerous situation of traffic gridlock on the interstates in surrounding areas, where people found themselves sitting on the highway at a dead stop with a tornado bearing down on them. More than one hundred thousand people were on the road while the tornado was on the ground.
During this period, the approaching tornado took a southward turn straight towards the people on the highways. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation took the unusual step of putting out a public call for people to not get on the highways, and leave them immediately.
Thankfully, the tornado rose into the clouds only a few hundred feet before the highway, and spared the lives of these trapped people.
Had the tornado not lifted, hundreds, if not thousands of people would have died, their cars thrown from the highway, many ejected or sucked out of their vehicles.
Mr. Morgan's statement of a 'mile-wide debris ball', seen by him on radar and described on-air, was never authenticated real-time and was later proved to be false.
The National Weather Service, Weather.com, and the websites of countless others offer the plain and simple advice: "Never try to out-drive a tornado in a vehicle."
Mr. Morgan's calls for the hundreds of thousands of residents of South Oklahoma City to flee their homes was dangerous, negligent, misleading, and counter to commonly held tornado advice. It was beneath the standards set by the American Meteorological Society, through which Mr. Morgan is accredited.
KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City must fire Mike Morgan.
A failure to do so by KFOR-TV will erode the station's ability to be a trusted source of real-time weather information and advice, and could potentially open the station to liability in future damage claims.
Oklahomans have a relationship of certain trust with their on-air meteorologists. We rely on them for life saving information.
Mr. Morgan has broken that trust.
Mike Morgan should be fired from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.
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