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WEATHER: Storm Coverage

Sightseers Interfere With First Responders After Broken Arrow Tornado

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A SkyNews 6 photo of the traffic snarl in Broken Arrow after the tornado. A SkyNews 6 photo of the traffic snarl in Broken Arrow after the tornado.
Sightseers interfered with first responders trying to do their jobs. Sightseers interfered with first responders trying to do their jobs.
The problem continued Friday as people tried to clean up from the damage. The problem continued Friday as people tried to clean up from the damage.
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -

First responders were hampered in getting to the Broken Arrow tornado damage on May 30 by sightseer. Gawkers were clogging streets and intersections, holding up emergency vehicles.

The biggest piece of advice first responders have for citizens during and right after a storm is: stay home. They had so much trouble getting first responders to the area because there were so many lookie-loos on the road.

First responders say their first priority after the tornado was to get into the affected areas to see if anyone was hurt and learn how much damage there was. That way they would know how many people and how much equipment might be needed to help those hit. They say that response was a lot harder than it should've been because of the traffic congestion.

That forces them to close roads and that means, first responders are doing that instead of more critical work.

"Within an hour after the storm hit Broken Arrow last night, we had state Highway 51 blocked for up to three miles, and the vast majority of people were driving by to take a look," said Sergeant Ed Ferguson, Broken Arrow Police Department.

Firefighters experienced the same frustration. At the time, they didn't know if people were trapped or hurt or if they needed to perform rescues or life-saving work. Just trying to get into the areas to make an assessment was delayed.

"If you aren't needed in that area, stay out, that's the best advice I can give," said Captain Jeremy Roberts of the Broken Arrow Fire Department.

"Let us get in there and do our job and help those who need help."

The problem continued the day after the storm, too, as people clogged neighborhoods were people were frantically trying to salvage what they could and protect their homes from more severe weather in the forecast.

"We've got homeowners who need resources, to get help, get materials and contractors who need to bring in and out equipment but as you can see behind me, it's a narrow roadway and it's filled with cars and a lot of people are just snapping photos on their cell phone," Sergeant Ferguson said.

They understand people want to get out and see what happened, but the best thing to do is wait 48 hours until the crisis has passed, then go out and drive, if you must.

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