For those who don’t live in tornado ally, or for those fortunate to have a basement, you have never had to experience the logistics of getting into a storm shelter. Having grown up in Illinois, I was fortunate enough to have a basement. I can count on one hand how many times my family and I had to go down to the basement for a tornado warning. The few times we went down to the basement (after looking outside for the tornado first) we had over 1,000 sq. ft. of space, plenty of room for my parents, brother, dog and me to have personal space so we didn’t totally annoy each other for the 15-minutes we were down there.
In Oklahoma only 1% of the population has a basement. That’s right only 1%, that is CRAZY when you think about the number of tornadoes the state sees on an annual basis, why is that? Geologists say that basement walls will crack due to the red clay that absorbs moisture and drys out in the heat which creates a contraction and expansion of the concrete. That in addition to high water tables is a recipe for disaster, and your pocket-book, so Oklahoman’s just don’t bother with it. Instead, us Okies resort to life-saving storm shelters.
There are 3 types of storm shelters:
- Underground Shelters
- Concrete Shelters
- Safe Rooms
All 3 shelters have been proven to save people’s lives in an EF5 tornado and when it comes to surviving a natural disaster, you will get into one of those 3 options with no hesitancy. They aren’t cheap, they all start off at a few thousand dollars each, so while I’d love for every resident in Oklahoma to have one (and I think they should be mandatory in each structure built here), not everyone can afford them. For those who do not have a shelter, make sure you are educated on how to protect yourself at home, the office or at a shopping center.
What’s great about being an Okie, is that everyone comes together during severe weather. Tornadoes, hail, earthquakes are all a lifestyle. For those who don’t have a shelter, they know they are welcome to their neighbor’s home if s*it gets real, no questions asked. Adults, kids, pets…all of them will take shelter together in whatever storm shelter is available.
Personally speaking, I have an underground shelter in my garage. To give you a visual it looks like an oil lube pit, torture chamber, bomb shelter, a 4’7″ dark abyss and a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. But remember, they are made for survival, not comfort. You won’t find anyone hanging out in a storm shelter for fun (unless changing their car oil, which we’ve done, don’t judge, it’s practical).
Now here is where being the wife of a meteorologist get’s exciting. My
weatherman meteorologist husband will ALWAYS be working during a severe weather day, leaving me home alone with a baby and two 70-lb dogs who are absolutely petrified of getting into said abyss.
Logistically speaking, getting two huge, stubborn dogs into a dark abyss while having a toddler either walking, crying, screaming, running, back-bending, laying down, or anything else a toddler can think to do at the worst possible time, will be impossible. One solution Aaron and I came up with is putting the Pet Loader into the shelter which will hopefully give the dogs more stair-width for me to shove, kick, hurl, throw, and/or wrestle them down into by myself.
We have done plenty of practice-runs with the dogs to prepare us for the inevitable, and while our fat lab has caught onto using the Pet Loader and trusting that we have a reason and purpose for her to be down in the dark abyss, our sensitive pit-boxer mix is just beside herself each time. She tucks her tail and retreats to the furthest corner of the garage and begins shaking like we are going to torture her. *she reminds me of the dog in Hyperbole and a Half, if you haven’t read this blog and have ever owned a dog, it’s amazing and you will crack up*
So, when you see a tornado warning in Oklahoma City, think of me, home…alone, with a toddler acting out in some way or another, and two 70-lb dogs (one is fat, one is shaking) trying to get into our underground storm shelter that is 4’7″ high, dark and loud. I will be that person that waits til the last-minute to get into the shelter because it will be traumatizing for all of us (also part of my diabolical plan to drive my husband crazy), but you bet your ass I’ll have each of them down there safe.There may be a few broken bones with the shoving and wrestling of the dogs, but I’d rather have a dog w a broken leg than no dog at all.
Hopefully I will never need to figure out the logistics of getting into a storm shelter, but if I do, there is a plan.