Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Terror, Tragedy and Hope

The past 2 days have been a blur.  I'm writing this more as a therapy than anything else.  I can't imagine what victims and their families and friends are going through right now.
THANK YOU to the first responders. They rescued at least 100 people last night.
In the past 2 days I  have had 2.5 hours of sleep and have been spending the rest of the time storm chasing or on air at the news station.  The fog is starting to lift and now reality is setting in.

The 4Warn Storm Team and KFOR were prepared for a 3 day severe weather outbreak but we had no idea the magnitude and devastation that would unfold.

May 19, 2013

At least 8 tornadoes touched down in the Sooner state.  One of the first storms went up right over the Metro damaging homes in Edmond.  

Photojournalist Kevin Josefy and I chased the second tornadic storm that went up near Norman, Oklahoma.  The tornado dropped over northern Lake Thunderbird and hit western sides of Shawnee, staying on the ground until Prague, Oklahoma.  This tornado was a violent tornado with a preliminary rating of an EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
I snapped this picture about 2 miles west of Bethel Acres.
May 20, 2013

After a busy day of covering severe weather, I put on my game face and prepared for another big day.  Looking at the high resolution forecast models that morning, I could tell the storms would fire earlier than typical tornado outbreaks which usually develop in the late afternoon during peak daytime heating hours.  The CAPE or storm energy was very high, well into 6,000 J/kg (for tornadoes you look for around 2,000 J/kg so this WAY surpassed it).  I also noted forecast significant tornado parameters as high as 7 (very high!).
A radar can pick up debris on the radar, this is termed a "debris ball."

Once again, photojournalist Kevin Josefy and I were on the chase.  Mike had us cover the Metro.  We fought traffic to intercept tornado and here is a play by play of what it's like to come face to face with a killer tornado.

The storm rapidly intensified. In less than an hour it had a violent tornado.

At least 8 tornadoes hit Oklahoma. The Moore tornado cycled and hit the town of Meeker.
The Aftermath

After taking a long nap this afternoon I woke up with a heavy heart.  I work out to relieve stress.  Despite the fact I am exhausted, I decided to take a long run and take a break from watching the non stop coverage.  About a mile into my run, I started sobbing.  So here I am running and crying and I did not even care.  These past 30 hours have been heavy.  I have powered through to keep it all together on the air but now it has sunk in that when I was a half a mile away from the EF5 tornado, I was witnessing people dying.  24 people died, 7 of them children.  The sky was pitch black and debris fell from the sky like a heavy rain shower.  Those were people's houses and lives falling in front of my eyes.

In journalism school we were warned that we will cover tragic events.  I haven't known true tragedy until now.  Over the past three and half years living in Oklahoma, I have grown to know and love the people of this state.  Oklahomans are generous and kind people.  While we grieve from this tragedy, hopefully we will find hope in the days ahead as we hear stories of survival and tales of heroes.

Pray for Oklahoma.
Today our station partnered with the Salvation Army to accept donations.  Here in Oklahoma we have what's called the "Oklahoma Standard."  This concept started after the Oklahoma City Bombing where instead of running away from the chaos, people ran into the danger zone to help others.  We have already seen a huge response from the people of Oklahoma.  So far we've received more than $50,000 in donations for various charities as well has much needed supplies. It's been incredible how local businesses are offering free services to those in need as well as raising money for the cause. Kevin Durant, NBA Thunder superstar even pledged $1 Million to the Red Cross!

If you'd like to help, text “storm” to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the Salvation Army and text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross.

If you are in Oklahoma, click HERE for local ways to help.


  1. Even though you may witnessed people parish...You actually saved more lives than you think! GOD BLESS and know your parents are proud! As a person who grew up here in OK I know I am!! Its ok to cry...we are human...if we didnt show emotions then something is wrong!

  2. You're a hero in my book. Thanks for putting your life at risk to help save lives. You should be extremely proud of the work you did and know that our city thanks you. It's a heavy burden you must bear now but be assured that we all support you and are grateful to have your expertise during such a scary time.

  3. Thank you for your kind words.

    I hope you consider yourself an Oklahoman now...because we do.

  4. You are a true Oklahoman now Emily!!! I am proud of you and am thankful for everything you hsve done! You have been called to do your job and you are grest at it!! Don't feel bad for crying...that shows your concern and compassion! That's the okie in you!!!

    1. Emily, thankx for sharing your heart. Thots & prayers

  5. you did great, thank you for all you do to keep us safe, anyone who doesn't cry over what happened doesn't have many feelings. Thank you again for all you do for us and keep your head up, we will survive this disaster and become stronger.

  6. Laura BerkenbileMay 21, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    You did a phenomenal job covering the severe weather this week. If the events haven't affected you emotionally you aren't human. I haven't been down there, haven't seen anything except what you have shown on TV & I can't help but get emotional watching & hearing stories. Keep your head held high because you saved thousands of lives. Take time for yourself to absorb everything you've witnessed & don't let it harden you.

    Thank you!

  7. Emily, you are amazing in my eyes, i am a born okie, but you chose to be here, you came here and saved more people than you will ever know, we will be forever grateful to you for that, our transplanted okie! Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the kind words and YES, I consider myself an Oklahoman! Thanks for embracing me and for the kind words to KFOR-TV. We appreciate it. Bless you all.

  9. Thank you, Ms. Sutton for your excellence and professionalism. You have done amazing things, and no doubt saved many lives.

    On another note - don't neglect your own well being, physically or emotionally. Don't be afraid to seek crisis counseling - post-traumatic stress is no joke.

  10. Emily,
    You have done a magnificent job informing Oklahoma about the weather. It's good to cry, not good to keep it inside. I even saw the normally strong Lance West choke up on camera. We are strong, but the Oklahoma standard is because we have big hearts and can't stand to see suffering! Keep up the good work! We love you!

  11. You are a gift to us Em. Ya cheesy I know but you will never really know how we see you through our eyes. Keep up the hard work and press on in everything you do regardless of how bad it hurts. We are all in this together. That's what makes Oklahoma Strong!

  12. Amen. I was about a mile south of May 3rd, 1/2 mile south on May 8th, & about a mile north of this one & it doesn't get any easier to feel so fortunate & blessed, at the same time feeling heartbroken & deeply saddened, with those that weren't on my mind. This time even more so as my ex's home was hit near Briarwood elementary & had this not been my week to have our kids they likely would've been there with the babysitter, thankfully no one was home. When I finally got to them last night it took all I had to not scare my innocent 3 year olds by sobbing uncontrollably, I just got on my knees & held them tight while they told me all about getting in the safe room with grandma & grandpa. Thank you for all you do.

  13. Emily,
    If you didn't get emotional then you wouldn't be human and I respect you even more for putting it out there.lance west got emotional on the air and that's the people I like.you saved thousands of lives and don't forget that,it was a tragic tragic event that happened and you did exactly what you were supposed to do,"you warned us, you saved us"
    Thank you for all u do!!!
    Mike R.

  14. Emily,
    I am a fan of yours...my kids love watching you since you had weather school at Meeker. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!

  15. We truly appreciate all you and the others do. You really do save lives especially this time of year. I was worried about you when I saw you so much on Tv. I knew you couldn't have had much sleep. Hope you can get a little rest between storms.

  16. What an asset you are to Oklahoma and KFOR. Thanks for being a part of us and allowing us to become a part of you!

  17. The fact that you experienced this not only as a professional,but with your heart makes you one of the better ones to report about it. God Bless you.

  18. You're a gem. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  19. Em, THANK YOU. Thank you for remaining professional when it mattered. Thank you for remaining aware when it was important. Thank you for remaining human and caring when it was necessary. You can't let this monster eat you alive. Pull away when you need to, and know that all of Oklahoma has ears to listen and shoulders to cry on. We're here for each other, thanks to you and your team; and we're here for you too, our adopted Okie. Don't be afraid to ask.

  20. Emily, I'm proud of all your hard work over the last few days. I've been keeping up from a distance and am definitely lifting up your community in prayer. I can't even imagine witnessing it all firsthand. You're a true professional with a heart of gold.

  21. Get some sleep and take care of yourself. You did an amazing job. This sort of thing changes you for life. It's a good change though. Thank you for putting yourself out there to keep us all safe. My house is 7 miles from where all that happened. It's hard to think about some times. That here there wasn't even a drop of rain, but 7 miles away... Thank you again, and seriously, rest and take care. Oklahoma is so glad you are here for us. <3

  22. By Wednesday morning, I could see just how tired you were on the morning news. Thank you for everything you do! You really are an inspiring person with all of your activities and such. I never thought I would look forward to a 4AM news cast, but I do now. You brighten my mornings, I'm even disappointed when you have a day off, lol. But, don't miss out on your rest! Thank you again Miss Emily.