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NWS Unhappy with Weather Channel Advice

A Sioux Falls meteorologist says he’s not happy with The Weather Channel suggesting residents of Sioux City, Iowa evacuate the city as a tornado was approaching the community.  Todd Heitkamp with the National Weather Service says in unpredictable weather—especially the threat of a tornado—leaving one’s home is not a good idea.

“Because you’re leaving the safe shelter of your home at that point in time.  You have no idea what you’re driving into.  You could have been driving into flooded roadways, you’re exposing yourself to the weather elements, could be driving into traffic jams.  And we saw that in the Oklahoma City tornado of last May—that a lot of people took the direction of the local TV meteorologist who told them to evacuate the town, and many people did, and we had traffic jams and people were affected by the storm in their vehicles," says Heitkamp.  "So you never want to leave the safe shelter of your home to get into a car and not be able to control the surroundings and not knowing what you’re going to be impacted by.”

Heitkamp says he and other Weather Service officials kept Sioux City leaders informed throughout the evening, and had no plans to evacuate the city of 80 thousand people.  Northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa were hit by several tornadoes Monday night—with the worst damage in the small town of Pilger, Nebraska.  Two people were reportedly killed from the Monday storms.  

In an email response officials with the Weather Channel say the comment was directed at residents in mobile homes and not at all residents.  They regret any confusion.