Here is a bit a good news. Representative Joe Dorman (D) of Rush Springs wants a 500 Million Dollar Bond approved to build shelters for Oklahoma Public Schools. You can read the whole story at Newsok.com
The fact is, that no parent in Tornado Alley, should have to worry about their child being injured or killed by a tornado while they attend public school. Especially not in Moore, Oklahoma.
Moore Oklahoma is dead center, in the dead center of Tornado Alley. Like the Bible Belt Buckles, yes, there is more than one Tornado Alley, but none so big and saturated as Central Oklahoma, and none so populated.
Moore used to be a little one horse town, with a few neighborhoods, and 2 strip malls. Now it is a booming suburb of OKC and Norman, filled with large, luxurious homes, and strip malls, and theaters, and parks. It has grown significantly since the 60s and 70s, and the average income it appears, has grown as well.
But it has always been a tornado magnet.
Back in the 70s, tornadoes came through there regularly. I won't say that they were necessarily as violent as May 3rd 1999, or this most recent storm, but they were a regular occurrence. The only thing was, there were more pastures and farmer's fields to hit and fewer houses and neighborhoods and shops.
Just like our water issue, Oklahoma is becoming too densely populated to take a laissez faire attitude toward public shelters, and school shelters. We need to conserve water all the time, because we are planning ahead. And we need to be more prudent about the availability of shelters for citizens, because once again, it is planning for the future.
Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said he is working on legislation that would provide $400 million of the bond issue to pay for storm shelters in public schools. The remaining $100 million would fund a program to assist homeowners and group home facilities with building storm shelters.Newsok.ComWe were here for the May 3rd Tornado in 99 too. A Temporary program was set up to give a tax break to home owners, to basically rebate their shelter. Only problem is, shelters are between 2,700 and 5,000 dollars a pop. People below a certain income level would have trouble coming up with that. And so many families, including ours, missed out on the program.
We finally bought a shelter a couple years ago, because we had saved the cash up. I believe that some sort of program to help families pay for shelters should be permanent. It could be on a sliding scale if need be. Maybe a sister program to Habitat for Humanity, could be a possibility, to help the working poor, and blue collar citizens purchase a storm shelter in Tornado Alley--just an idea.
There was also an attempt to make it a law, that Mobile Home Parks should have to provide community shelters to their clientele. That legislation apparently died in committee, if memory serves. A lot of lives have been lost over the years in violent tornadoes, because people who live in mobile homes, had no where else to go. Nowhere to seek shelter. Being in a mobile home or a trailer home, is one of the most dangerous places to be during a Tornado. However when you are poor, it may be what you can afford. Understand that we get severe thunderstorms that can pack 90 mph winds without a tornado and turn a mobile structure over or blow a car or even semi- off the road. The weather here is real exciting, but after you have been here for a while, you learn that certain precautions need to be taken.
I have no doubt that Dorman will get flack for this, and push back. Something like this will be paraded about as some form of "Socialism" no doubt.
But the fact of the matter is this:
Tornado season is a predictable, regular occurrence in Oklahoma, you can count on it.
Now that we know that EF5s and EF4s are going to keep happening in this area, there is no excuse to pretend that a sturdy building above ground is enough to protect our children from these deadly, predictable threats.
No parent should feel compelled to drive into the Maw of Death [An Oncoming Tornadic Storm] in order to save their child, who should be safe at school. A parent should know that their child is safer at school than anywhere else when it comes to severe weather.
We have known this area is historically prone to violent weather for over 100 years, and it blows my mind that every school in Oklahoma, doesn't have shelter for it's students, teachers and administrators. This gamble with the safety of our children, season after season defies logic. In short, Oklahomans of all people, know better than this. We live this every year. Any politician that do not "get" this, I would question their ability to lead, given their extreme ignorance of the hazards, and risks of our cyclical severe weather.
In addition, school shelters can also serve as community shelters. A law was passed in 2011 limiting the liability of shelter owners, in allowing citizens use of the shelters, and that included those public schools that already have storm shelters, allowing members of the public to use them when school is in session.
If it were up to me, every public library and town hall would also have a large shelter for use of the public. But I realize, that it's just this sort of bleeding heart politics, that puts a twist in certain political boxers every time.
But when you think about the number of churches that have underground shelters open to the public, adding public schools, libraries, and town halls, might just save some lives.
I was lucky a couple days ago. The people I know who lived and went to school in the path of that tornado, came home to me, and I made them breakfast, and I hugged their necks and cried all over them, in relief that they were whole and with the living.
The latest story I heard today, was of a mother who arrived 10 minutes before the tornado, only to find the school in lockdown. But the thing is, you cannot lock an EF5 out of an above ground building. These teachers were forced to line children up in the hallways doing the duck and cover move, or shove them into closets and bathrooms.
I am grateful to the teachers and staff who gave their all to protect those children from harm, given that they were allocated inferior tools and methods to face a monster tornado. We don't send our modern military into war with Roman infantry swords, and boiled leather armor. We don't force surgeons to operate with wooden Sticks, or use acme hammers for anesthesia. We shouldn't force teachers and administrators to try and protect school children from monster tornadoes, in Tornado Alley using desks and notebooks.
We can do better than that. We can give them the tools and facilities so that this never has to happen again. I hope that Oklahomans, regardless of their party, stand by Representative Dorman of Rushsprings, and help him accomplish something that should have happened decades ago.
I want to repeat something important: We have the ability, the technology and the community power, to prevent something like this, from ever happening again in a public school.
In the future, concerned parents could seek shelter with their children in a school shelter. I would rather hear your crazy stories, because you are alive to tell them, then visit a memorial service. There are so many things that we cannot control, and cannot protect ourselves from every time, but this--this isn't one of those things.
5:47 PM PT: In the poll below, one savvy reader pointed out that it is the state's responsibility to fund the schools to make the shelters. He is right. so hopefully some of you will know, what I meant, as opposed to what I wrote. oops.
I normally do not go for reposting links to gruesome or salacious material, however I believe that these links bring context to the the discussion here. That these videos and stories show the need.
"Most of the children who died were in school. And parents are asking why those schools don't have shelters.Helen Grant rode out the tornado in her neighbor's underground shelter in Moore. She thought her two daughters were also in a shelter at their nearby Central Elementary School. Instead, they huddled in a bathroom...Seven children were killed Monday when the tornado destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which did not have a shelter (CBS)."ABC: Oklahoma Tornado, Teacher in Storm-Whipped Schools Records Moment of Impact.
Daily Mail UK. Imagine seeing these schools and knowing there is no shelter, no safe rooms, and not knowing if your children are alive or not, injured or not?
"Parents have been forced to endure an agonizing wait at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, where they wait for news of their loved ones.Frantic parents rushed to Plaza Towers Elementary moments after it was pummeled by the storm that has been given a preliminary rating of at least EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale but they were kept back so search teams could hear any survivors calling for help through the rubble.The seven children confirmed dead are believed to have been trapped underneath rubble when they were overcome by water from burst pipes.The families were later taken to a nearby church where they continued the harrowing wait for news of their children. Some, hoping their little ones had made it out alive, posted photographs of their children on Facebook and Twitter, desperately hoping they'd be reunited. Daily Mail (UK)"This story happened early on during this disaster, so death tolls have been adjusted since it's publication online.
Respondents to a question on The Express-Star's Facebook about the potential bond issue overwhelmingly sided with Dorman. "It's hard to believe that this hasn't already been done. The theory of putting children in hallways during tornados is the same logic used in the 1960's of having children hide under their desks to avoid an atomic bomb blast. Nothing about either scenario makes sense," Erica Elder-Alexander wrote. Despite improved warning systems, storms like yesterday are too deadly and too large to effectively get everyone out of harms way, which poses a need for shelters, according to Sharla Beverly. Some responders said they were teachers and fully supported the bond. "I support that 100 percent," Lyndi Wilkerson Douglass said. "I work at an elementary school and I know the gut wrenching feeling that occurs when you are faced with a dangerous situation. I know this would put parents and school faculty minds at ease. (Chickasha News)"If you are a local Oklahoman, please call your local representatives and let them know you support this proposal by Joe Dorman. Let's not let political divides stand in the way of common sense and the safety of the children and teachers of our community.
Thu May 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM PT: I just saw a press conference coming from Moore, stating that money is being raised by a new non-profit organization, created by a bipartisan group of legislators, to retrofit every school in the state with storm shelters. As soon as I can get something official online, about this, I will post a link.
Fri May 24, 2013 at 9:34 AM PT: Finally, the story is posted about the nonProfit, for Retrofitting Schools with shelters and Safe Rooms:
NPR: Tornado Safe Rooms a Popular but Costly Idea.
'Find A Way To Pay For This'. Helen Grant didn't have that option. Her two daughters attend Central Elementary in Moore, Okla., which has no safe room and was placed on lockdown before Grant ever had a chance to pick them up. After seeing the destruction at Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary, she decided to sign a petition that calls on Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to require all schools in the state to build safe rooms. "And even if the money is hard to come by, I'm sure people could pay for it. Our state has given tax breaks to big businesses. I'm sure they can find a way to pay for this," Grant says.NewsOK.com: Energy Company Donates Seed Money for NonProfit, to Retrofit Schools with Storm Shelters and Safe Rooms.
Republican Reps. Jon Echols and Mark McBride said they wanted to help schools be prepared for tornadoes like the ones that hit this week in central Oklahoma.Echols, of Oklahoma City, said the nonprofit will be formed with the help of the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm and Oklahoma City University's School of Law.
The Energy Company is Apache Corp out of Tulsa.
My main concern is that this is not mandated, so I worry that the shelters will not be built for all of the schools, but instead only service the high profile schools that were in the storm. I like Representative Dorman's plan better. In fact I would rather see this as a bond issue and then corporations opting to match funds or sponsor an individual school. It would be more likely to get done.
One solution would be to make smaller schools, so their shelters could accommodate, and simply have more of them. It might make it nicer on our teachers as well, that might also lead to smaller more manageable class sizes. But I realize that this is an unlikely solution.
Tornado shelters in Tornado Alley is as basic as seat belts in a car, or air bags. You can live here without those things, but when it all goes wrong the cost may be so high and so painful. And it really doesn't have to be this way.
Sat May 25, 2013 at 6:28 AM PT: Some conversation below have been about how it's impossible to run [in a car] from large tornadoes, even violent EF5s, and how the lead time is too short. Sometimes nothing but either an underground shelter or getting out of the way will do.
""You rarely ever have less than 15 minutes, and usually considerably more," said Ed Bates, an architect who designs buildings that incorporate storm shelters. "With the good lead time, I'd tell people to get in their automobile and go 90 degrees from that perceived path," said Bates. "It's manageable and easy to do -- even in a city environment." Given open roads and a reliable vehicle, the race should not be close. Funnel clouds can travel as fast as 70 mph, but their average forward speed is only 30 mph, according to FEMA."
Normally it is not recommended to try an outrun a tornado. Some are the products of storms that race at highway speeds, and are accompanied by very large hail. But if it's a choice of being above ground for an EF5 or EF4 or getting out of the way, outrunning the storm would be better than taking your chances that it won't tear you to shreds.
With this particular storm, Moore had 36 minutes of warning. Some folks cannot conceive that we can put warnings out that far in advance but we can and do all the time. We knew the week before that Central Oklahoma was going to receive severe weather Sunday and Monday. The forecast models are really that good and the National Severe Storms Lab and other independent scientists are always looking for ways to improve those models and prediction accuracy.
Here is how it works.
We have radar. We see the storms with both radar, and with storm spotters--some on the ground, some in the air, so that we also have eyes on the storms directly. You see them out here in little SUVs tricked out with all sorts of weather gadgets, some of them belong to local news casters. In fact the there are classes held every year for people to become trained spotters.
So we have radar, showing wind speed and direction, and any tell tale characteristics, like hail cores, and hook echoes, and we have eyes in the sky and on the ground often showing live footage, chasing or keeping pace with these storms. With just that knowledge, we can plot a course of the storm, even know right where it turns, if it turns or wobbles, giving us unbelieveable lead time to warn people in towns, that are plotted in it's path.
These storms started in Chickasha. At 70mph that's about 2+ Hours from the Metro Area. Newcastle is between Chickasha and Moore. Hence the 36 Min Warning for Moore. It would have been more if locals followed the coverage starting in Chickasha.
Currently, the Severe Storms Laboratory can forecast weather conducive to tornadoes about seven or eight days out, Brooks said. This is a vast improvement over 15 years ago, when forecasts were available for just one day ahead. CNNSome folks simply cannot believe this. Believe it. Add to that, all the local stuff I just posted above, and you can see it's quite a departure from what Okies had to deal with prior to Doppler or even after the use of the first Doppler Radar in Oklahoma Storm Prediction.
So if we cannot for some reason, get these shelters built, perhaps I will have to concede what others have suggested, and create the Tornado version of Snow Days for school kids. We have made plans with friends, for just such occasions. Pull the kid out of school on that day, get the home work, and send the kid to our house where we have an underground storm shelter. Perhaps the Churches that provide community storm shelters could help out I suppose, since we are apparently too cheap to build appropriate shelters for what we often call "Our most precious commodity" in this country. Precious until you have to shell out the cash for a shelter apparently.
Even if you don't want to sign, read some of the comments on this page.There are several first hand accounts of people who were not allowed to collect their children, to get them to an underground shelter in their neighborhoods, while the schools did not themselves have adequate shelter. I had heard this upon initial stories about the storms, but wanted to wait and make sure I heard/read correctly. And here it is.
If schools lock down your children during a tornado and deny you access, to get them to safer ground, then they should be mandated by law, to have the facilities [i.e., an underground shelter] that can house every person who goes to that school or works in that school.
Another Story found, covering the lack of shelters:
"Newcomers, a lot of them, really do think it’s crazy that not every house in Oklahoma has a storm shelter."
It's not just newcomers! Some of us old hands think it's nuts too.