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Coronavirus Restrictions Complicated by Upcoming Tornado Season

Norman, Okla.'s Emergency Management Coordinator David Grizzle said it’s unlikely that people will be able to keep six feet of distance between themselves and others in storm shelters, which are typically small spaces.

by Mindy Ragan Wood, The Norman Transcript, Okla. / April 14, 2020
(TNS) - Normanites who are headed to the grocery store or out for a stroll will now have to keep one eye out for COVID-19 and one for tornadoes.

As springs storms arrive, twister time is here, and state and Cleveland County officials have issued recommendations to stay safe from both menacing virus and malignant weather.

"The need to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 brings added complications to taking shelter from severe weather," a prepared statement from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reads. "However, state and federal officials agree that your top priority should be to protect yourself from a potential tornado."

The recommendations include wearing a face mask in shelters and practice social distancing. In the home, residents in the area of a tornado are encouraged to shelter in a closet, bathroom or interior room of the house.

Norman, Oklahoma's Emergency Management Coordinator David Grizzle said its unlikely that people will be able to keep six feet of distance between themselves and others in storm shelters, which are typically small spaces.

"Most shelters accommodate four to six people so there's not a whole of lot room," Grizzle said. "The factor is sneezing and the droplets in the air. Any kind of face covering, or at least cover your sneeze is something basic anyone can do."

There are no public storm shelters in Norman.

"We did a study and the council agreed with us that we didn't have facilities in compliance as a high wind shelter," Grizzle said.

The forecast for severe weather or how severe it could get remains to be seen.

"The best weather forecast is there's a 50% chance of something happening," Grizzle said. "It really depends on the ingredients of any storm as to how it affects us. If ask some people in Norman they'll tell you that we don't get tornadoes but that's probably because they didn't get one in their part of town."

Grizzle recalled the May 10, 2010, tornado outbreak that swept through the southern and eastern parts of Norman.

"People were losing their homes and active destruction was happening," he said.
He hopes people will consider using a weather radio in addition to other warning alert systems such as TV weather news and cell phone apps. A radio is reliable in the event of a power outage and alerts specific to the channel's area are broadcasted.

"Look through the preset channels for the strongest signal," he advised. "Then set that to your home channel. I believe the channel for Norman is Channel One is usually the strongest for this area. These newer homes, sometimes you don't get really good reception. Place them near a window or you might need an external antennae."

Grizzle urged people to stay weather-aware, especially before going outside and during trips away from home.

"With the virus going on, people are distracted," Grizzle said. "Always have situational awareness."
Mindy Ragan
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