Adding a Tornado Shelter

Over the last two weeks there have been at least five different tornado producing storms within 200 kilometres of us in all directions. The worst has been a “high end F2”. Fortunately the population density up here is so low it hit nothing except one poor farmer who lost all his outbuildings but he and his family were unhurt. At various times the tornado had seven vortices and it was a kilometre wide at ground level. In other words it was a typical tornado alley event and since Manitoba is straight north of Texas, it is part of tornado alley. Our little home town has had damage due to tornados twice in thirty years. So, it makes perfect sense to be concerned about tornados in Manitoba.

While following the weather alerts on the last really big storm, we realized if the storm maintained its strength and trajectory we might be making our own dash to the basement and so we went and inspected it with an eye to using it for shelter. It was rather alarming to note our very nice basement is totally unsuitable for a tornado shelter because it has four big windows that let in lots of sunlight. This means flying shrapnel and acute danger if a tornado hits. So we felt it was time.

One other thing the basement does not have is storage. So we decided to fix two problems by putting in a storage closet that could double as a tornado shelter. FEMA has lovely plans and designs and we had a friend visiting who is an engineer. He consulted the FEMA sketches for came up with a design and we agreed to give him guidance and support for some help with a paper he is working on in exchange. We made out list and went to town to get supplies. For budget reasons, we decided to do it all in two stages. First we will build the frame with his guidance and then we will add the outer double 3/4 inch plywood layers later by ourselves. In this way we can spread the cost over more than one month.

I was really beginning to wonder if we were crazy. Putting in the shelter means adding a few hundred dollars to the total cost of the storage closet and honestly, did we really need it? As if God was giving us a message, a huge thunderhead was forming as we worked in the lumber yard securing the lumber to the truck for the trip back from the city. Fortunately, it was going east and we were west. The speed it grew was impressive. The employees in the lumber yard were clearly concerned. I casually remarked to the young man helping us secure 42 2X4s to our truck rack that this storm was going to produce hail, severe weather and maybe even a tornado shortly but we didn’t need to worry. He was very interested in the storm. I gave him a brief lesson on the mesocyclone and anvil and other tidbits of severe storm structure one can assess storms from as I strapped lumber down. As we left the lumber yard the warnings began. Sure enough, this monster produced at least two F0-F1 tornados and dumped golf ball to tennis ball sized hail along its path before wandering off into Ontario. It was apparently in the mood to eat crops not homes so no one was hurt and there was no damage. Since I was busy loading lumber to build a tornado shelter, I didn’t chase after it to get any pretty pictures. (Actually I don’t like chasing these things. I prefer to figure out which way they are going and move as rapidly as possible in the opposite direction.) Fortunately for the purposes of blogging, others like to chase and so you can see some very nice pictures here. As we checked out the tornado warnings I decided the $500 we had just spent, $300 of which was for extra stuff a mere closet did not require like bolts into cement to keep the closet in place even if the house lifted and flew off to Oz, was likely a good investment.

I will update as the shelter goes in.

1 thought on “Adding a Tornado Shelter

  1. Pingback: Alonsa Tornado Part One – Our own near miss. | Tumbleweeds Tumbling

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