Blaming the Weatherman for Deaths

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Frightened by a TV meteorologist’s warning to get underground, Virginia Shrum fled with her family and a friend to a long drainage tunnel behind their Oklahoma City apartment on May 31 to escape an approaching tornado.

It became a death trap.

In all, 11 people from the apartment sought shelter in the concrete tunnel, which starts at SW 15 just west of Interstate 44 and ends a quarter-mile away at the Oklahoma River.

Five died.

Four of the dead were children, ages 4 and younger. The body of one — a baby girl — has not been recovered.

An EF1 tornado touched down north of SW 15, a few miles away from their apartment, and traveled for 10 miles, the National Weather Service later determined.

It did not damage the family’s apartment.

Before fleeing the apartment, there were arguments about what to do. Timothy Shrum urged going to the drainage tunnel.

Hennington said, “I kept telling him, ‘No. No. No. Let’s go into the closet. … I don’t trust that.’”

Virginia Shrum said her brother talked about how he had hidden down in the tunnel from a tornado three years before.

The survivors said they were swayed to flee the apartment by warnings from Mike Morgan, KFOR-TV chief meteorologist.

“I had a bad feeling from the beginning. I didn’t pay attention to what I was feeling and we went down there anyway,” she said.

She recalled seeing a spiraling tornado dropping to the ground as they made their way to the tunnel.

More on the story from The Oklahoman