March 6, 2017

How We Prepare for Tornado Season


How we prepare for tornado season

A few years ago, our daughter-in-law-to-be and her parents lost their home to a massive tornado. They made a last-minute decision to leave the bedroom closet where they'd always sheltered and go to their neighbors' underground shelter. All that was left of their home after the storm passed was that closet.

Tornadoes occur on every continent; in North America they are most prevalent across a swath of the central United States. Oklahoma seems to be where many of those storms are spawned - in fact, Oklahoma City has more tornado strikes than any other city in the United States.

Back in 2009 we had a storm shelter installed here at Oak Hill. We've never had to use it, although I did once stand at the back door, wavering over whether or not I should run for it. Still, the peace of mind has been worth the cost of having it put in.

Installing the storm shelter

The company brought the shelter to our property in two pieces, dug a hole with the backhoe they brought on another truck....

Installing a storm shelter

... and lowered the two pieces into place. They were bolted together and the earth was backfilled around the shelter. That dirt has settled over the years and we should probably bring in another load.

Having our storm shelter installed

We have a rule: keep junk out of the storm shelter. If we need it, the space has to be open and well-organized. I don't want to run through heavy rain to a dark place with stuff jumbled on the floor, plus I hate creepy-crawlies and icky surprises. I do store the insulated coolers and picnic basket under the steps but that's dead space so it's acceptable.

Our in-ground storm shelter

Shortly after having it installed, I thought through the entire process of running out to the shelter during a storm and decided what we might need when we got there. These items are stored in a plastic bin to keep them clean and safe from bugs and mice, although I've never found evidence of mice, thank goodness.

Hubby attached tap lights to the door and inside the shelter. We replace the batteries each spring. We store our folding metal chairs in a corner. In another corner next to the steps we placed a plastic shelf unit that holds bottled water and the plastic bin of supplies. Inside the bin are:

  • several bath towels so we can dry off after running through heavy rain
  • a flashlight and new batteries
  • our weather radio
  • a small first aid kit
  • blankets to wrap up in

I've tested my cell phone in the shelter to make sure I can get a signal. When we first had the shelter installed the cell service out here in the hills was very spotty, but new towers have been installed since then and our service is much better now.

Our storm shelter with some unexpected guests
Seriously? I think Dakota dared her to try it!

Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, but are most likely between late March and August, with what we call The Other Tornado Season in late October and November. In March I clean out the shelter, sweep the floor, wash the towels and blankets, and replace the water and batteries.

Our local weatherfolk are predicting an early tornado season this year because we are exiting a La NiƱa weather pattern, so I've been busy getting our shelter clean and restocked a little earlier than usual. The dogs need a refresher course on how to get down the steps (they hate it).

No matter where you live, be weather-aware and stay safe!


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8 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:35 AM

    I have the same items in mine plus a tote with a complete change of clothes, jackets, couple of quilts and an extra pair of shoes. Just incase we loose our home.
    Sue

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    Replies
    1. Excellent ideas, Sue. Thank you for sharing that!

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  2. We had a small tornado hit the next town over last week. Our home was hit with straight line winds which are also damaging. We are lucky to have a basement in our home, but after taking shelter down there last week, I realized that I need to reevaluate that space myself.

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    Replies
    1. Jamie, so glad to hear that you weren't in the path of that tornado. We've had some experience with straight-line winds too.

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  3. I live in north Georgia, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mtns. The mountains help break up many storms before they reach us so we've never taken tornado warnings seriously. Then, a few years ago the weather station said a tornado could hit our town any second. Again, not taking it seriously. We were fortunate that the storm swayed and took another path but the next town over was demolished by an EF4 tornado. Now we take it much more seriously. A storm shelter is a goal for my homestead. I like hearing what others have planned. Do you have tips on shopping for a shelter? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, April! That was a wake-up call. There are a few different kinds of shelters: a "safe room" that goes inside the house, an in-ground shelter that goes in your garage floor, and the type we have. Since we wanted in-ground and don't have a garage, our choice was easy. Friends recommended a company that installed them. I've watched stories on the news about companies who didn't install them correctly, so the recommendation was something we appreciated.

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  4. With so many options out there I have to say I like this one and then I've heard the horror stories where shelters flooded and the people died. What to do is difficult because we get tornadoes in North Texas too. Normally if it gets real bad we just hide out in the closed in wall bathroom. We're in the process of selling and our next set up will be very different. This was helpful, Thank you!

    Carole @ Garden Up Green

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    1. Last year some areas received so much rain that this type of storm shelter sort of floated out of their holes. This is why it's important to have a good installer. Up here at the top of the hill we don't have that problem, but our installer gave his opinion about the best spot to locate our shelter.

      I'm glad to hear that you'll have a better set up in your next place, Carole. Sometimes an interior room just isn't enough.

      Delete

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