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View Diary: With their bodies they saved children. (126 comments)

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  •  Why can't a tornado community build a school (11+ / 0-)

    that is safe in a tornado?

    •  Building a school to withstand an EF4 or 5 tornado (20+ / 0-)

      is going to cost considerably more than one able to withstand an F3 or less strong tornado, and it will require major engineering design expertise, rather than typical construction approaches.

      An EF4 with 200 mph winds (full of debris, cars, trucks, trees, housing materials, and golf ball sized or larger hail) rips through most surface structures in seconds. The tornado was a mile wide at its peak and cut a 9+ mile long swath of utter wreckage.   Even buildings with basements were not safe since shortly after the tornado passed, some of these flooded quickly (as water mains broke), and drowned dozens, maybe more. Gas leaks that caught fire and exploded took out other basement 'survivors'.  

      The tornado destroyed homes that had concrete 'safe rooms' on the surface level where people expected to survive.  It is likely this 'EF4' tornado will ultimately be designated an 'EF5' after full damage assessments are made.  People in this area had at most about 15 minutes to find adequate shelter from this monster tornado.  Safe buildings have to be quickly accessible as well as be able to be quickly locked down tight.

      Building a school with safe rooms adequate for the staff and students and anyone nearby in the neighborhood, might perhaps be constructed as a domed structure made of several feet of ribar reinforced concrete and steel beams, and shielded from electric, water and gas hazards but including survival water, food, radios, medical first aid gear, and things like pick axes and shovels and power tools, would be quite expensive to design, build and furnish, and train staff to use. A school board faced with building a conventionally constructed school for a few million dollars versus a super strong school for tens of millions or more, will ordinarily have a difficult time justifying the expense.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Tue May 21, 2013 at 01:40:30 AM PDT

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      •  And besides, schools now have to budget for more (11+ / 0-)

        important things like armed guards and such, amirite?

      •  well, in my local middle school where i work (16+ / 0-)

        in NJ they are finally getting around to removing the asbestos tiles, as there was no money during the required asbestos abatement to do the floors 20 years ago. I am in a newer school, opened in 1962. Today i will be at an elementary school where I counsel younger kids, built in 1950. My job today will likely be to reassure them that tornados don't happen often here ( neither do hurricanes, but we've had two inthe last two years) and that the thunderstorms we expect today will not harm us. And that we would never let anything happen to them. Because this is all they will be talking about today.

      •  May I add that (9+ / 0-)

        unless it is a very wealthy community, the school district will quickly hit the "ceiling" - the debt limit based on the ISD's tax base (value).  Bonding ability is limited by the taxable value of the district - after exemptions.

        I posted this last night: In new school construction, you build concrete reinforced hallways for shelter.  Not just concrete blocks - the walls are precast concrete panels with precast concrete double T beams for the roof structure.  The roof is another thick concrete slab.  The connectors to the rest of the structure must also meet high standards for wind and impact resistance.

        Also, all windows and doors for the sheltered area have much higher specs and can cost many times the amount for regular commercial windows and doors.

        The truth always matters.

        by texasmom on Tue May 21, 2013 at 07:53:01 AM PDT

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        •  the schools can still (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catilinus

          dig a basement, at a cost that is not too prohibitive.

          •  Our soils are mostly unsuitable for basements (7+ / 0-)

            and in many areas flood with only a few inches of rain.  Here's why, in my limited geologic understanding:  Much of our soil is thick, dense red clay, from surface to bedrock, that absorbs moisture, swells and then contracts when it dries.  Basically, it is unstable.  Basements here are prone to cracking, mold and mildew.  

            We also have a high water table in many areas.  Cracked basements and a high water table means they can flood quickly during rapid rainfall, such as a flash flood.

            CBS has reported that 7 children drowned in the basement of one of the elementary schools, but I do not believe that has been verified.  I am very hopeful it is not true.

            The truth always matters.

            by texasmom on Tue May 21, 2013 at 09:31:42 AM PDT

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          •  The OK school that had the most deaths (5+ / 0-)

            Had a basement. Several of the children who died reportedly drowned because of rain/water main breaks flooding it.

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Tue May 21, 2013 at 09:45:47 AM PDT

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            •  I've read that, but there seems (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              catilinus, belinda ridgewood

              to be some difference in reporting.  CBS reports in the basement, while NBC says "in a pool of water"  which really makes no sense to me.

              I know any number of dead children is too many.

              The truth always matters.

              by texasmom on Tue May 21, 2013 at 09:52:37 AM PDT

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              •  CNN quoting Lt. Gov (5+ / 0-)
                Some of the children killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, during Monday's storm drowned in a basement area there, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN Tuesday morning. "My understanding, this school ... Plaza Towers, they had a basement. Quite frankly, don't mean to be graphic, but that's why some of the children drowned, because they were in the basement area," he said. Officials have said the storm killed at least seven children at the school.
                http://www.cnn.com/...

                “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

                by Catte Nappe on Tue May 21, 2013 at 10:06:42 AM PDT

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                •  I hadn't seen that one (6+ / 0-)

                  I'm on the planning committee for new construction  in our small school district, so we will go the concrete-constructed hallway route. We will have to forego other desired improvement in order to include the storm hall, but that decision is very sadly reinforced by yesterday's storm.

                  Thankfully there are a couple of engineers nearby with specialization in wind engineering.  We've done a good bit of lay research - much good information available from NOAA.  Here is one.

                  The truth always matters.

                  by texasmom on Tue May 21, 2013 at 10:22:19 AM PDT

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                  •  texasmom, bless you for volunteering your time (4+ / 0-)

                    for that planning committee. It sounds like know way more about it than me, but yes, my understanding is that the "reinforced hallway safety zone" technique is the current best practice, both for retrofits and for new construction.

                    Here in Portland, OR, we plan for earthquakes, not tornadoes, and reinforced hallway zones are where we're going.

                    -Jay-
                    
      •  At some point, we are too fragile vs. nature (6+ / 0-)

        I live in Tornado Alley, and I'll say this.  We all die.  There are some forces of nature that are so extreme, like an EF5 tornado, that they are effectively unsurvivable.  

        Throughout most of human history, we've been more in touch with our own mortality, and that of our children.  In modern society, we believe that we can be "safe."  That we can safeguard ourselves and our children from random bad things that happen.  We spend (waste?) untold sums of money and energy striving for complete safety, which is an illusion.  See, e.g., security theater at the airport.

        We're not all going to live to a ripe old age.

        The thing about tornadoes is this - there was huge, unthinkable destruction here.  And yet the vast majority of this area, even of this town, was unaffected.  Tornadoes drop, cause devastation, and lift.  It is random and selective and actually quite limited in scope.  I've lived in Tornado Alley for about 15 years.  The closest I've ever gotten to a tornado is an EF3 that came within a half mile of the house, and no loss of life associated with it.

        Still, on balance, even in this "dangerous" part of the world, it's unlikely that you will ever face down an EF4 or 5.  And if you do, your survival is more luck/chance than design.  Accomplishing a "shelter" that keeps you safe from wind and debris as well as the broken water mains, torrential rain, and possible broken gas lines or downed electrical wires?  It's not as easy as people think.  

        I have a basement, but when my house gets ripped away by the tornado, or worse yet, when it shifts and all of it gets dumped into the basement on top of me, how useful will that basement be?  Many people who have not seen the awesome force of nature are naive about we can realistically hope to do to protect ourselves.

        There is certainly a minimum standard of safety precautions.  But there is no such thing as absolute safety.

        Thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything - Henri Poincaré

        by milton333 on Tue May 21, 2013 at 10:09:10 AM PDT

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    •  Moreover (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catilinus

      the threat of tornado was known, was it not? Was there ever a discussion about closing schools that day?

    •  Our school felt it couldn't afford librarians. (5+ / 0-)

      There's these things happening all over - they're called "Budget Cuts".  We lost 10 teachers last year in one school.

      We made schools and education an after thought in this country.

      My daughter went to school in Calif. that couldn't afford toilet paper.  My daughter carried tissues in her pockets in case she had to use the filthy bathroom.

      They could barely fix the broken tables there.

      "Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

      by Damnit Janet on Tue May 21, 2013 at 08:52:46 AM PDT

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      •  My oldest niece is a teacher in California (4+ / 0-)

        At the beginning of the school year she asks her students to bring a roll of paper towels and a box of Kleenex; that's usually enough to last the entire school year (she locks them in her classroom's closet). Some kids will bring more to cover those who can't afford it (thank goodness for Costco).

        At least the school can still afford toilet paper, and custodians to keep things clean (she's told me the most important thing a new teacher can do is form a good relationship with the school custodians; you never know when you need an emergency cleanup and they move a lot faster when it's a teacher they like).

        There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

        by Cali Scribe on Tue May 21, 2013 at 11:21:45 AM PDT

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    •  I think it's been made clear (0+ / 0-)

      This is anti-tax territory. You don't build safe, reinforced schools on wishes and dreams. The people in the area have to conclude it is worth paying taxes for.

      Jon Husted is a dick.

      by anastasia p on Tue May 21, 2013 at 01:33:30 PM PDT

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      •  Nothing can be reinforced to survive an EF5 (0+ / 0-)

        And every brick of unnecessary/ineffective/unlikely to be needed reinforcement is that much less money you can spend on educational services.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Wed May 22, 2013 at 01:16:53 AM PDT

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