National Weather Service criticized over tornado warning timeline

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MOORE, Okla. - Several residents in Moore say they had only seconds to take cover before their homes were hit by a tornado on Wednesday evening.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., KFOR and Bob Moore Chopper 4 reported a tornado touching down in Moore.

However, many residents say sirens in the area were not going off and a tornado warning was not issued for several minutes.

According to a statement issued from the National Weather Service, the decision to issue a tornado warning was based on spotters and media reports.

The day after the event, the National Weather Service released its storm timeline, stating that a tornado developed in southwest Oklahoma City around 6:35 p.m.

The organization issued a tornado warning at 6:41 p.m. for southwest Oklahoma City.

A tornado warning for Moore was issued at 6:43 p.m.

"The siren didn't go off until the vent was falling on my head," said Greg Best, a tornado victim.

City leaders in Moore say the sirens were set off before the tornado touched down, adding they may have been hard to hear over the storm.

"We blew ours at 6:30, right at 6:30," said Mayor Glenn Lewis.

"It's important to remember National Weather Service tornado warnings are one part of an integrated warning system that also includes the local broadcast media and city and county emergency management officials. This warning system is designed with multiple layers. This means, for example, if a trained storm spotter reports a tornado, many communities have the ability to activate their own local warning systems, including outdoor warning devices with or without an official NWS tornado warning. Anytime your community's outdoor warning sirens are sounded, or you feel threatened by a storm, it's an indication that you need to go to a safe place and seek additional information, regardless of whether a tornado warning is in effect," the statement from NWS read.

"Situations like the one on March 25 are complicated, and the storms that produced the damage are difficult to anticipate and extremely difficult to warn for. They are not uncommon in Oklahoma. Fortunately, tornadoes that happen in these scenarios represent the lower end of the tornado intensity spectrum and don't pose the same dangers when compared to the tornadoes we saw back in May 2013."

Some residents in Moore say those warnings could have come too late.

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Nancy Coffey and her son, Tim, were watching NewsChannel 4 when the tornado set a bulls-eye on their home.

"There are power flashes, and then he said, 'No, that's between 4th St. and 12th St. on Santa Fe.' And right then, I looked up and watched the roof lift up off upstairs," Coffey said.

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