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.
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me ‘what is the weather going to be today?’ I’d literally have tens of dollars. But, it is a reality I am faced with with every severe weather season and with any threat of moisture that comes out of the sky. I suddenly become everyone’s go-to person because I am married to the
weatherman meteorologist. It’s like they think I am privy to secret weather information; that I’ll be able to tell them the exact time, wind speed, accumulation, etc. that will hit their house that day.
April and May in Oklahoma are my least favorite months for various reasons, including:
- I don’t see my husband
- There is no such thing as a schedule (see previous blog here.)
- I suddenly need to act as media spokesman for the friends and co-workers to educate everyone on what to expect for weather events that day/week.
- My phone blows up with “Is there going to be a tornado?” “Do I need to seek shelter?”
But what you don’t know is on severe weather outbreak days my husband is doing 12-15+ hour long days, prepping, chasing, forecasting, phoning into the station, working behind the scenes literally answering all the questions viewers want to know. There is no time for him to tell the storm “hold on so I can text my wife and let her know what the weather is in her backyard.” From me to you, I might hear from him once or twice on a severe weather day simply as a status update, otherwise I have to watch the news just like everyone else.
My advice to you is, turn on the news, the
weathermen meteorologists will give you the most accurate information and will break it down by the minute and literally tell you if it’s going to hit your house or not. The behind the scenes action is incredible on severe weather days. While you see one to two weatherman meteorologists on air, there are double to triple the people behind the green screen, looking at new models coming in, getting viewer photos to share, communicating with the chasers, creating new graphics, etc. Then you have all the storm chasers out on the road following every single major storm cell to inform the viewers exactly where it is and where it is going. All 3 major stations in Oklahoma City have helicopter pilots that are on the storm to provide a birds-eye-view of what the storm is acting like. And all of that are only the storm teams! This doesn’t even go into the newsroom and all the reporters and anchors and what they are putting together to inform everyone what’s happened when a storm blows through.
I’ve asked Aaron if he could so kindly take a break to text me if a tornado is headed towards our neighborhood, or at least give me a personal shout-out on air, he said he could do that, so to any friends we have in the surrounding area, I will do my best to text you personally if there is a need to worry. But again, my advice to you is be prepared. Have your storm shelter ready, or have a safe room to go to in your home, don’t go driving around running errands if you know a storm is headed your way, have a weather radio, download your favorite local station’s weather apps, and tune in to the local channels see exactly what’s happening.