Woodward, Okla. — Duffy-Relf credited central Oklahoma residents' instincts and habits: they watch the weather reports, they look at the sky, they know what they can and can't outrun.
"We know where we live," she said as she tried to salvage as much from the home as possible before her aunt returned from a vacation to Mexico.
Her husband, Paul Duffy-Relf, also noted the rise of social media and cell phone use since the last massive storm smashed the town more than a decade ago. He said people posted on Facebook and Twitter ahead of Monday's storm, telling others where the tornado was and when to flee. And some never left their cell phones, staying on the line with loved ones as long as they could, and working to quickly reconnect with those who needed help afterward.
"People are still looking for their wallets, but they have their cell phones," he said.
Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said long-range forecasting models also have dramatically improved and are able to provide insight even a week before a storm strikes.
Brooks said people in the storm's direct path had time to pick out their safe place — even if it was their home's bathtub — when there was first word of a massive tornado bearing down on them.
"If you take appropriate action, you go to your safe place, you can dramatically increase the probability you'll survive," he said.
To Brooks, the Joplin tornado was the oddity in terms of lives lost. That tornado struck on a Sunday evening two years ago this week.
"It's a number that I really don't understand what led to that," he said. "It could be the timing, 5:30 on a Sunday night, or bad luck. That was the outlier."