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CNN Today

Rash of Downtown Tornadoes Dispels Myth that Twisters Don't Hit Big Cities

Aired March 30, 2000 - 2:12 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Salt Lake City, Utah, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, now Fort Worth. Twisters seem to be hitting cities with greater frequency.

Jaqui Jeras has more..

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tornadoes don't hit major metropolitan areas. It's a common misconception and a potentially deadly one. Fort Worth now joins a number of cities hit by twisters in recent years. Among them: Salt Lake City last August, killing one, the state's first-ever tornado death; Oklahoma City last May, a series of tornadoes in the metropolitan area that killed 40 and caused more than $1 billion in damage; Little Rock, Arkansas, in January 1999, killing three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's right on the stadium -- look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JERAS: Dramatic pictures showing tornadoes ripping through downtown Nashville in April of 1998 and through Miami in May, 1997, heightened awareness that twisters do hit big cities.

SKIP ELY, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: We don't think the landscape contributes significantly to the tornado formation. If there's any contribution there, we're still researching that. For the most part, the area of north Texas, one area is just as vulnerable as another.

JERAS: In the past few years, it seems to be happening more frequently. But meteorologists say it's coincidence.

On average, 1,200 twisters hit the United States each year. The odds of them striking a major city is low because of simple geography. There's more square footage of farmland in Tornado Alley than there is populated land.

(on camera): For years, we've been told the best place to take cover is in your basement or an interior room. But what do you do when you're home or your office is 30 stories up and you have no time to make it all the way down? Meteorologists say the rules are about the same.

DAN MCCARTHY, STORM PREDICTION CENTER: You stay away from windows, you stay away from the edges or outside walls of the high- rise buildings. The best thing to do is head toward an interior hallway or even an interior stairwell to take cover.

JERAS (voice-over): Staying alert and being prepared, even in big cities, is the key to safety.

Jacqui Jeras, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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