How We Prepare for Tornado Season

Suggestions for preparing for severe spring storms and 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 bedroom 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: 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; preparing for tornado season.

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

Installing a storm shelter; preparing for tornado season.

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

Having our storm shelter installed

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Keep The Shelter Neat and Clean

We have a rule: keep junk out of the tornado shelter. If we need it, wee want the space 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, spiders and icky surprises. I do store the insulated coolers and picnic basket under the steps but that's dead space so it's acceptable (according to my rules, anyway).

Our in-ground storm shelter

Gather Supplies

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:

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I've tested my cell phone in the storm 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.

It's always possible that a tree or other debris could land on top of the shelter door, trapping us inside. We want to be able to use our phones to call for assistance, as well as to let our family members know we are safe.

When storms are predicted, we charge up our phones ahead of time.

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

Prepare Before Tornado Season Arrives

Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, but are most likely between late March and August, with what Oklahomans 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 weather forecasters 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!

Related Posts:
Preparing for Winter Storms
Straw-Box Cooking
Build Your Own Power's Out Kit

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Here's what to do to prepare for tornado season and severe spring storms.

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  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.

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

  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.

    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.

  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!

    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.

  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

    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.

  5. I have never lived in an area that was prone to tornados. Sounds like you are well prepared however!

    1. I hope we are, Nancy. I'm always tweaking the plan though. You are fortunate to not have to deal with them, but I think everywhere has its own threat, whether it's earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood...

  6. Though we only have micro-bursts up here in NH, as a kid growing up in Arkansas we saw plenty of tornadoes. Never got that close to them, but I remember watching them from a distance and being enthralled. Thanks for sharing on the blog hop, and bringing back some groovy memories:)

    1. I bet you saw quite a few in Alabama!

  7. We have something similar and we keep it well stocked in case of emergency. Found you on Homestead Blog Hop.

    1. Everyone in tornado country should have some sort of plan, for sure! Thanks, Candy.

  8. Good information, Kathi. We have a basement with a back room that serves as our shelter. We've had to hunker down there several times. Our closest tornado since we moved here was about 3 miles away...too close for comfort! I need to look at our sheltering spot and think about ways to make it better. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I would add a bathroom bucket and sawdust for covering the poo in case a tree falls over your door and you become trapped for a few days. It is just as important as food. We take it seriously here. My family's hometown was devastated by a tornado 7 years ago. Plus having lived in Ohio, we know what destruction can be caused. We have a semi basement here (dirt floor) but we use it no matter what if the sirens go off along with the weather radio. Thanks Kathi for this informative article.

    1. That's very practical advice.


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