The post below was originally published on 5-1-11, shortly after the tornado outbreak across the Deep South. It has been one of the most viewed posts on the blog this year, and with recent interest in the events in Joplin, I thought I'd bump it back up for our new readers.
While the "primary" tornado season is winding down for 2011, its never too early to plan for a shelter installation for next spring. Also, keep this fact in mind: one of the Joplin survivors (Sam, you can see his story here) had a safe room in his basement. It saved is life, because a significant part of his home crumbled down into the basement, which would have crushed him if the extra support had not been available.
The original post is below:
The very gripping photo above shows the Harrison family of Athens, Alabama. According to the person taking the photograph, Gary Cosby Jr., the family had literally just stepped out of their "safe room" (to the left) on Wednesday to find the remainder of their home completely gone.
Judging by the complete destruction surrounding them, I think it is a very safe bet that the entire Harrison family would have perished had it not been for their tornado safe room. Thank God they had that available. I wish that every person that perished on Wednesday would have had a shelter option like that one. If they did, and if you assume that they had a way to receive the warnings and get to shelter before the tornado struck, I don't think we would be sitting here today talking about 300+ deaths and scores of injuries from this tragic event.
A tornado safe room is built especially to withstand very strong, tornadic winds. As you can see, the Harrison's safe room is made out of large concrete masonry block (and probably reinforced by steel bars) with a steel reinforced door.
In many "run of the mill" tornado situations, you can seek shelter in an interior room that is not specifically built as a tornado safe room, like a bathroom or closet and come out fine on the other side of the event. However, in cases like the 4-27-11 outbreak in Alabama, where many tornadoes were of EF-3 to EF-4 intensity (which equates to winds of 136-200 mph) or higher, a specifically designed above ground "safe room" or a below ground shelter are really the best (if not the only) options available to increase your chances of survival.
I don't know if the Harrison family had that shelter installed, or if it was already in place when they moved into their home, but I know they are very grateful that it was there when they needed it on Wednesday.
***Editorial note: I have also included this posting in my "Joplin Tornado in Review" series, as it has enormous application to that event (as pointed out in Sam's story as referenced above). For more on the Joplin tornado event, click here to return to the table of contents post, which contains a chronological listing of all related posts, and will be updated with new links as additional posts are made.
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