TV station apologizes for not breaking into NFL game during tornadoes

This Oct. 20, 2019, image made from video by Twitter user @AthenaRising shows the tornado in Rockwall, Texas. (@AthenaRising via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas-Fort Worth television station owned and operated by NBC is apologizing for not airing warnings promptly as a tornado raked Dallas.

While other network-affiliated stations went wall-to-wall with weather coverage about the tornadoes Sunday night, including one that devastated parts of northern Dallas, KXAS stayed with the NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.

KXAS apologized in a statement issued Monday, saying it “made a mistake by not immediately interrupting the football game with a tornado warning.” Instead, it waited six minutes before breaking into the broadcast.

The station noted that it streamed live weather coverage on its website and gave updates with on-screen texts. But on reflection realizing “that seconds matter,” station officials now believe it “should have broken into football programming sooner.” Station officials promised to do everything in their power “to make sure this does not happen again.”

A tornado tossed trees into homes, tore off storefronts and downed power lines but killed no one in a densely populated area of Dallas, leaving Mayor Eric Johnson to declare the city “very fortunate” to be assessing only property damage.

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A meteorologist said Monday that people took shelter thanks to early alerts, and that it was fortunate the tornado struck Sunday evening, when many people were home.

“Anytime you have a tornado in a major metropolitan area, the potential for large loss of life is always there,” said Patrick Marsh, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. “We were very fortunate that the tornado did not hit the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium or the State Fair, where you would have had a lot of people that were exposed.”