As a native of Oklahoma City, I have been following news coverage of the recent tornado damage with much interest. The loss of life and property damage in Moore, Oklahoma, and other areas has been horrific, and as Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, stated, the region is very much in need of our prayers.
The Moore tornado was indeed a newsworthy event. At last count, it has resulted in the loss of 24 lives and over $2 billion in property damage. It was especially heartrending in that Monday’s storm was the second major tornado to strike Moore in the past 15 years. The residents of Moore, and of the entire region, deserve respectful, accurate, and balanced reporting. What they have received, I believe, is not always that.
When the national television networks first interrupted broadcast shows for special reports on Monday afternoon (May 20), they had already begun to describe the storm as “historic” and “catastrophic.” Granted that information was fragmentary at that point, but news reports indulged in what could only be termed speculation. It was known that the tornado had struck two elementary schools that were just letting out, and that fact soon became the focus of much of the reporting. It was suggested that “entire classrooms” of children may have been lost along with their teachers. The storm was immediately compared to the Joplin tornado of 2011, which killed 158 residents. Total loss of life for the Moore tornado was initially reported at 51 and projected to be well over 100. That projection was then reduced to “at least 24.”
Certainly the aerial photos were gripping. Hundreds if not thousands of homes had been destroyed. Cars along Interstate 35 were piled up in heaps. Dazed residents were shown walking about, sifting through the debris and searching for survivors.
As these photos appeared, newscasters commented on the events in emotional and sometimes frenzied tones of voice. Again and again, they referred to the “dozens of children” that had probably been lost. Much was made of the fact that Moore had been hit a second time, repeating and exceeding the damage of 1999, a tornado outbreak that killed 46 with 318-mph winds. Monday’s storm is estimated to have had winds of 190 mph.
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