Panicked Durham residents dial 911 during tornado warning


No sooner than the First Alert Weather app warned of a possible tornado in Durham Wednesday morning, calls for help poured into the Durham 911 call center.

"Hi, we're under a tornado warning and I have no idea what to do," said one desperate caller.

Another caller told the 911 operator they didn't know what to do.

Confused and a little scared, newcomers to the Triangle also dialed 911 for help during the tornado warning.

"I got a tornado warning alert on my phone," said the caller. "I don't know where anything is. I just moved here a couple of days ago."

ABC11 Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann understands some people's anxiety about this week's tornado warnings. 

"You see what happened out to the west. You think that's going to happen here because that storm is coming our way," Hohmann explained. "But, not all of the ingredients are always the same."

Hohmann advises both newcomers and longtime Triangle residents to seek shelter in their basement or the lowest level in the center of their home. It may be an interior hallway closet or bathroom. 

At least one 911 caller living in an apartment was hesitant about following that advice.

She asked the Durham 911 operator, "If I'm in an apartment do I have to go anywhere?"

The operator urged the caller to stay inside. 

Meteorologist Chris Hohmann recommends people living above the fourth floor of an apartment building to seek shelter elsewhere, if they're in an enclosed building. 

"If you can go to a lower floor--either you know someone on the first floor and if it's an enclosed area," Hohmann said. "That's safe." 

Hohmann advises against taking cover in apartment corridors exposed to the outside. 

Durham City and County emergency officials warn non-emergency calls can hinder efforts to help people in a real health crisis. 

They're encouraging callers to prepare for severe weather by having a game plan before local sirens or mobile apps warn of dangerous weather.  

"It's too late to plan when the emergency is going on," said Durham Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Batten. "We need to plan what we're going to do, where we're going to go."

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