NEW YORK - The Weather Channel is sending meteorologist Mike Bettes back out to chase tornadoes less than a year after he was hurt when an Oklahoma storm sent his SUV tumbling, but this time from a safer vantage point.
Bettes will hit the road starting Monday for "Tornado Week," his network's version of "Shark Week" that's usually its biggest scheduled programming event of the year. So far, this year has been an historically quiet tornado season.
"I was very hesitant as to whether I would get back out there," Bettes said. "But time has passed, and time heals all wounds."
A tornado left him bleeding last May 31 in El Reno, Okla., when his chaser vehicle was caught in the wind. One of his cuts required stitches in his left hand, and he swallowed some glass, but his injuries and those of camera operator Brad Reynolds were considered minor. Driver Austin Anderson had a cracked sternum, five broken ribs and a broken cervical vertebra and required surgery.
Bettes said he thought he would regret it if he didn't get back on the road. It's not for the thrill; he said it's important to warn communities because some people don't take the danger seriously until they see a storm.
This year, though, he'll keep a greater distance between himself and any tornado.
The Weather Channel also won't chase tornadoes in metropolitan areas, like Oklahoma City. Regions with more density and traffic can make an escape more complicated if the storm takes a sudden turn, he said.
Even while caught up in the tornado last year, his team's mounted camera kept operating and the network aired the footage. It largely showed a black screen with audio of crashes until the camera came to rest with the picture sideways.
"Tornado Week" will include a special about chasers caught up in the El Reno tornado. A new series, "Tornado Alley," will premiere with storm footage, survivor tales and computer graphics to simulate actions of certain tornadoes (9 p.m. Monday).
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