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Oklahomans caught trying to flee tornado

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a warning as familiar as a daily prayer for Tornado Alley residents: When a twister approaches, take shelter in a basement or low-level interior room or closet, away from windows and exterior walls.

But with the powerful devastation from the May 20 twister that killed 24 and pummeled the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore still etched in their minds, many Oklahomans instead opted to flee Friday night when a violent tornado developed and headed toward the state's capital city.

It was a dangerous decision.

Interstates and roadways already packed with rush-hour traffic quickly became parking lots as people tried to escape. Motorists were trapped in their vehicles -- a place emergency officials say is one of the worst to be in a tornado.

"It was chaos. People were going southbound in the northbound lanes. Everybody was running for their lives," said Terri Black, 51, a teacher's assistant in Moore.

After seeing last month's tornado also turn homes into piles of splintered rubble, Black said she decided to try to outrun the tornado when she learned her southwest Oklahoma City home was in harm's way. She quickly regretted it.

When she realized she was a sitting duck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Black turned around and found herself directly in the path of the most violent part of the storm.

"My car was actually lifted off the road and then set back down," Black said. "I'll never do it again."

At least nine people were killed in Friday's storms, including a mother and her baby sucked out of their car as a deadly twister tore its way along a packed Interstate 40 near the town of El Reno, about 30 miles from Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma wasn't the only state to see violent weather on Friday night. In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis sustained significant damage from an EF3 tornado that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.

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