Tag Archives: Severe Weather

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.

50th parallel gardening in the prairies.


Several thing happened to my garden since my last update. Ten days ago after a week of baking heat, we got nine inches of rain in 48 hours. This was followed by several more days of at least an inch of rain a day. I wish I could complain a lot about this being an unusual year but its not. This is prairie gardening. So in addition to ….long….. summer days, and a short growing season there is insane swings in temperature and water. The long hot days of no rain you can compensate for with a hose and sprinkler. There is nothing you can do about too much rain. Well not quite nothing. I deepened a preexisting trench at the bottom of the slant of the garden to get water to drain a little faster. The trench was put in by the previous owner of this garden patch indicating just how not unusual the situation is.

The result of all the wet meant that the spinach promptly up and died except for the fourth planting that went to seed when it was only five centimeters tall and had maybe four teeny tiny leaves. So the spinach is done for the year. With the staggered planting we had several meals of spinach fresh and cooked but we ate it as soon as we got it so none was put by for later. Note to self, more spinach, less staggering. Radishes, well the last of those are in the picture. And you can see what all the rain did. They split. Same note re radishes. The corn has taken on a rather sickly hue of yellow green and it may or may not recover. And one tomato plant that was standing in water for days gave up and died. It also meant I couldn’t get in to weed for nearly a week. The weeds, being prairie weeds and well adapted to this local environment, took off, well like weeds, with the wet. This is why I didn’t plant any peas. Every year I have tried one of these heavy rainstorms has started the powdery mildew and no peas.

Some thing didn’t care. The beets and carrots did just fine and today I thinned them again. The results are above and represent a meal of baby carrots and beets. The green beans seemed to absolutely love both the heat and drought and the wet. They are in full swing now and we will be enjoying green beans for a while. I don’t seem to have any yellow beans which is strange because I planted both green and yellow bean seeds. I lost quite a few baby bean plants to frost and now I am wondering if maybe it was all the yellow ones. Note to self, next year separate rows, and green beans seem spring hardier than yellow.

The tomatoes are doing very well in spite of one untimely death. They not only have lots of heavy green fruit but they also are still blossoming and we have been enjoying small yellow ones for about a week now. They are beyond delicious and I wish they would hurry up and produce more. The cucumbers took a hit but look better. I have tiny two inch cucumbers. The zucchini responded to the extremes by producing the weird looking ones you see. I think they like wet better than drought though because the weird ones started in the drought and the ones coming up behind these two look normal. The zucchinis are the only thing that has taken over and overshadowed the weeds. We had a huge wind that took out all the sunflowers so they are now lying on their sides and the heads are bent up from the talks at ninety degrees. I think they may still make nice flowers but they look very strange. The lettuce is getting close to bolting but isn’t quite there so we will have lettuce a bit longer. Surprise surprise my experimental spaghetti squash took a great leap up and are now in bloom. They seem to like rain too.

And finally the momma robin has been very busy because the rain caused a huge outbreak of white slugs. Fortunately, the robin is now on her second brood of babies and they are hungry little guys who needs lots of slugs to grow into adult robins. So the rain has been good for her.

Uncle Sam’s Revenge

Snow A favorite topic of American weather forecasters is assorted names applied to weather from Canada. They include “cold arctic air from Canada” (like Alaska isn’t up there too), the Manitoba Mauler, and the Alberta Clipper. Well Uncle Sam occasionally delivers his own wallop to get even and like most things Uncle Sam does, it is go big or go home. The Colorado Low is a perfect example. Here it is lovely May weather in Manitoba and the trees are blooming and the grass is green and the birds are singing happily and preparing their nests. Little goslings faithfully follow mother goose. And then along comes Uncle Sam with his Colorado low to remind us all why Winnipeg is often referred to as “Winterpeg”. So the incoming Colorado low brought us two days of bitter cold, high winds, power outages, road closures, travel advisories, and 10-15cm of heavy wet snow, freezing rain, ice pellets and general misery for man and beast and plant. (That’s 4-6 inches of snow for you Americans who threw out the English King 200+ years ago but insist on keeping his silly measurements system the rest of us discarded decades ago.) My birthday is Tuesday and my granddaughter has hers a few days later so it has become a kind of family tradition to celebrate the Victoria Day weekend with a family picnic and joint birthday party. I cancelled for this year. This is very disappointing for me but inevitable. At least we had a get together with almost all of us for Mother’s Day. I guess Uncle Sam wants to make sure we don’t give up our plans for spending the winters in the southern USA. Snowball

Hubby Dearest prepares to throw a May snowball.

Storm Day

Looks like we are in for a nice day of storms with thunder and lightning, heavy rain, hail, high winds and possibly a tornado or two. There is a cold front crossing a warm front and it is currently three counties west of us moving east. We are staying indoors watching the radar, ready to move to a more sheltered spot if anything close by is threatening. Travel trailers do not take severe weather very well. In fact, statistically speaking, you are better off outside lying on the ground than sitting out a severe storm in your trailer. Meantime I have a bunch of figures for our book that need doing so I will flip back and forth between Compisitor and NOAA until this front passes. If you are in the way of any nasty weather, stay alert, stay safe.