PSA – Tornadoes

I’ve lived the majority of my life in Tornado Alley. Tornadoes are high on the list of Things Calamity Preps For.  Because of this I have certain rules,

  • I only live in places with underground shelter.
  • Food stores are kept at least half in that shelter.
  • Water stores are kept entirely in that shelter.
  • Tornado sirens are not ignored.

It’s not ideal, falling building material could break the jars that my home canning is in. (Our house is pretty old.) There are windows in the basement shelter, and even with the flannel I have taped over them, there is some risk of flying glass.

Our bug out bags are located in such a way as to be close to the front door, but also directly on the path between the bedrooms and the basement. Those are designed to come to the shelter with us for tornadoes. We have folding chairs in the shelter, and the bags have light, heat, books, games, coloring books, crank-radio and blankets. Everything we need to wait out a 30 minute tornado event. The rest of the bag contents ensure we have everything we need to survive the first few days after a close brush with a tornado. MRE’s, dried meals, socks/undies, personal hygiene, bottled water, water purifiers, work gloves, tobacco, coffee and tape.

Anyone have any tornado preps that I missed? Or something novel you think would help in such an event? Sound out in the comments!

– Calamity Jane

17 comments… add one
  • Ray June 6, 2013, 8:03 am

    I survived the 1974 super outbreak. Over the years I have seen every class of super cell and every size of tornado. Have a BUNKER. Four reinforced cement walls with a steel door + roof AT MINIMUM. If your shelter has windows you WILL have a flying glass hazard. There is NOTHING that you can do to stop that from happening. In fact EVERY lose object WILL become flying razor blades and shrapnel in any near miss above an EF-1. Want to “prep” for tornados? NOTHING short of an underground shelter will protect you from EF-3 to EF-5 tornados. A tornado is nature’s “H” bomb , Bugout bags, food, water, dogs and children are all lost if you don’t have UNDERGROUND SHELTERS.

  • irishdutchuncle June 6, 2013, 9:32 am

    yeh, what Ray said: BUNKER.

    also, we’re only six days into hurricane season, and we have a named storm…
    Mainers: expect some “weather” by the weekend.

  • mainerinexile June 6, 2013, 9:39 am

    thick plywood drop-down panels that will cover the windows? if they’re not “bolted” in place when down but rather held in place with bungee cord, they might help deflect the debris downward onto the floor rather than allowing it to fly into the basement…

    how about a portable dvd player with screen so you can watch a movie or two?

  • Jason June 6, 2013, 9:43 am

    I have always been curious about tornado coverage with home insurance, is it expensive & or is there a high, out of pocket deductible? Every time I see the aftermath I wonder if the people have the means to rebuild the home i.e. insurance.

  • irishdutchuncle June 6, 2013, 9:54 am

    Calamity: I’d add some “security” film to those basement windows…

    trauma supplies: (I’m sure you have a robust first-aid kit, but it needs repeating) what we need, and where we can buy it.

    shutoff wrench.

    can you elaborate on what you keep in your bags for heat?

  • Jeff June 6, 2013, 10:47 am

    My emergency kit also includes:
    shoes – in case its the middle of the night and I dont have time to grab them
    copies of important documents – Insurance, licenses, deeds, etc
    car keys – your vehicle may survive, and it would suck if your keys were blown into a field somewhere

  • irishdutchuncle June 6, 2013, 11:40 am

    good call Jeff,
    especially about the keys.

  • Dave F June 6, 2013, 12:12 pm

    You should get a portable harddrive and put all your pictures, important docs, etc.

    Back it up every month and keep in watertight box.

  • Badger359 June 6, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Good article, I’ve been thinking about my situation regarding tornado’s now that I have moved to Bedford TX from San Jose CA. I am currently renting a house on a 1/4 acre residential area near Hwy 121 and Bedford/Euless rd. Where in the hack to I go? My Realty owner will let me biuld a below ground shelter. We have our BOB’s and supplies here at the house, but if one comes my way my above ground supplies are at risk of being erased.

  • Badger359 June 6, 2013, 12:20 pm

    Sorry will not let me build a shelter

    • Lare June 17, 2013, 9:10 am

      Badger – Tornado Alley Armor in Tulsa, OK sells above groud shelters certified by Texas Tech that can be assembled on site and bolted to the slab in the garage. Since your landlord won’t let you put a shelter in the ground, one bolted to the slab that you can take with you when you leave may be a solution. They also finance through an Oklahoma credit union.

      While they say these shelters are certified for EF5 tornadoes, I would rather be underground if I had my choice. However, it beats hunkering down in the bathtub with a mattress lying on top of you.

      Add a dot com to the above company name and you can find their website. They are delivering my shelter in early July.

  • Badger359 June 6, 2013, 1:19 pm

    BTW, are there public tornado shelters? It would nice. Israel has public bomb shelters.

  • Kevin Ayres June 6, 2013, 2:53 pm

    Even if you only salvage plywood from old pallets cut some window covers. I survived the 1964 Palm Sunday outbreak in Marion Indiana so I know what it is like. Recently in Amarillo Texas as the Tornado approached a friends home near Bushland everyone was issued helmets as they went into the shelter. I have my CERT helmet in my CERT go bag but now have added my old bike helmet to my BOB, as well as for the wife and kids. Plywood and Helmets. Be safe.

  • Ray June 6, 2013, 5:09 pm

    Plywood WILL NOT stop tornado shrapnel moving at speeds above 80 to 90 MPH (EF-0) . At speeds above 150 MPH (high EF-1 to low end EF-2) brick walls offer NO safety- NONE – 2X4s will penetrate as if the wall were a tent. Above that is the hammer of GOD. Your house WILL become flying shrapnel if hit (even a close pass of 200-400 yards by an EF-3 will destroy the best built house). Safety film , shutters and plywood may work in a cyclone with 75-100 MPH wind ,but they are useless if a big twister comes. UNDERGROWND SHELTER is the ONLY shelter that will save you in a big twister unless you are REALLY, REALLY lucky.

  • Shootit June 7, 2013, 2:01 pm

    We live in Tornado Alley and see Tornado’s frequently. I have seen one or even two near our house every year for the last 5 years. We have had minor damage to our property in 2 of the last 5 years. The biggest problem is usually a power outage. Like Calamity we have a basement that is stocked with the above mentioned, but have gone a little further and stocked our basement/shelter with a “Get Out Kit”. In the event of major damage to our house and we become trapped there is “Get Out Kit” that consists of a battery operated Reciprocating Saw, battery operated Screw Gun/Drill, extra batteries, 3″ screws, wonder bar, crow bar, hammer, a ladder, and other assorted tools that will allow us to cut/dig our way out. I went a little overboard with the storms that rolled through our area a couple weeks ago and temporally added a chain saw to the kit.

  • SOUTH-OKIE June 7, 2013, 6:31 pm

    Shootit, your right! The after math maybe almost as bad if your trapped with no one knowing. I have some rural neighbors that have a panic button in there cellar linked to the FD. GOD bless oklahoma in these times!

  • Pineslayer June 7, 2013, 10:17 pm

    A bunker would be great if you had the money. My friends in the Dallas area have one, it filled with water during one really bad storm. Water was flowing through the neighborhood, more than ever, caught them by surprise, but they were OK. I like the idea of helmets, motorcycle style, maybe a suit of armor too. One friend in OK had a small shipping container “bolted” to the earth. He is in a wheelchair and needed something to roll into from his house. Good luck and stay safe Calamity family.


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