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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

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.Com
We 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.

CBS: Parents Ask Why Some Oklahoma Schools Lack Tornado Shelters?

"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.

CBS: Injured Third Grade Teacher Tells of Trying to Protect Students. Oklahoma Tornadoes: Children Endured In Hall of Plaza TowersElementary Pictures of Moore, and Plaza Towers after the Tornado. Plaza Towers Elementary Tour. Students Deserve Serious Conversation About School Safety. (editorial)

To read Representative Dorman's Press Release regarding his proposal, click on this link.

Huffington Post: Before and After Oklahoma Tornado Pictures.

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.

Chickasha News: Dorman Pushes for Shelter Bond

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. 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. CNN
Some 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.

Sat May 25, 2013 at  9:24 AM PT: Petition for School Tornado Shelter:

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:

ABC News: School Storm Protection is Spotty in Tornado Alley

Tue May 28, 2013 at 7:59 AM PT: Newcomers Floored by Lack of Storm Shelters in OK

"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.

Originally posted to GreenMother on Wed May 22, 2013 at 05:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


If you were to move to Tornado Alley, you would expect:

97%80 votes
2%2 votes

| 82 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Disagree with poll Qs. It's not the school's (8+ / 0-)

    responsibility, it's the state's and communities'.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Wed May 22, 2013 at 05:41:46 PM PDT

  •  In addition to state and community efforts, (14+ / 0-)

    maybe they should consider asking corporations to sponsor shelters.

    They do love to put their names on things and it would be a little embarrassing to say no.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Wed May 22, 2013 at 05:49:10 PM PDT

  •  I read a comment that said most people die (5+ / 0-)

    of head injuries in a tornado.

    Until we get the shelters built, can we have helmets in the schools in tornado alley for the kids sheltering from a tornado?

    Maybe at home too. Helmets in the bathroom for everyone.

    Get the 'oopsie' out of 'keep and bear arms' see GunFAIL and Gun Crazy diaries weekly.

    by 88kathy on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:04:33 PM PDT

    •  I don't want to give any GOPers (5+ / 0-)

      a cheap way out of this.

      Yes, helmets can help, but being above ground in a violent tornado of this magnitude is pretty much a done deal.

    •  Great idea. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      88kathy, RUNDOWN

      Helmets and a Short Bus for all the Gooper state lawmakers who won't put in place common sense measures to protect their populace.

      190 milliseconds....

      by Kingsmeg on Wed May 22, 2013 at 07:07:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What does "most" mean in this case? (0+ / 0-)

      Sometimes most means "more than 51%" (i.e., an absolute majority)

      Other times it just means "more than by any other method" (e.g., 13% die from head injuries, 12% die from drowning, 11% die from lung puncture, 10% die from heart failure, etc etc . .. ).

      •  Well I guess what the commenter was talking (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        about was most.

        The most common causes of injuries for survivors were being hit by flying/falling debris and being picked up or blown by the tornado. Probable causes of death included multiple injuries (50%), head injuries (23%), chest trauma (18%), and traumatic asphyxia (10%). The proportion of deaths among injured persons was higher in mobile homes, apartment buildings, and outdoors than in houses. The vast majority of persons received television warnings; few persons received warnings by weatherband radio. here
        Soooo put on your bicycle helmet and put on the kid's bicycle helmets. You got 'em, it won't kill you. But you know what, you should get to a shelter too. Keep your helmet on and get in a shelter.

        It's simple.

        Get the 'oopsie' out of 'keep and bear arms' see GunFAIL and Gun Crazy diaries weekly.

        by 88kathy on Thu May 23, 2013 at 01:38:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Common sense in Locust Grove, Oklahoma (20+ / 0-)

    When you’re in Tornado Alley

    Locust Grove, Oklahoma may not be big and it may not be famous and it may not be wealthy, but it is wise.

    In 2007, this community of just 1,200 residents passed a bond to build an arena for its high school. On the advice of School Superintendent David Cash, they went Monolithic.

    Their Monolithic Dome arena has a diameter of 148 feet, a height of 51 feet, a bottom floor area of 17,000 square feet and seating for 1,409 spectators.

    “We get lots of compliments from visitors to our arena, and it’s definitely my favorite gym in which to watch a game,” said Mr. Cash. “And our Pirates (basketball team) love it.”

    But one of the best things about this arena is its ability to protect. “We are in tornado alley,” Mr. Cash said. "Our Monolithic Dome arena is our official, community tornado shelter.

    “People in Oklahoma are geared to watch the weather, especially in the Spring. When there’s a tornado warning, our arena is opened to the public. If I or someone else from the school is not available to open it, the police chief or his officer will. They have keys. Since its completion, we’ve sheltered there several times.”

    Help me to be the best Wavy Gravy I can muster

    by BOHICA on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:32:49 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! (4+ / 0-)

    As I was watching the tornado live on KFOR on the internet, I saw the chopper scanning the school remains within minutes after the tornado.  I thought, "Oh surely those children are in a shelter."

    Then we found out the horror.  I posted a few comments that are right in line with your diary.  It's really hard for me to understand why tornado shelters in that area are not considered a requirement of infrastructure.

    Here are a few extra notes I have after reading the comments:

    1)  Those children did not drown as was first reported, they died of 'mechanical asphyxiation'.  

    2)  There are FEMA certified EF5 tornado shelters that sit above ground.

    I was surprised to see that any above ground shelter would work, but supposedly they do.

  •  Sorry, but i'm not impressed with the $5000 a pop. (0+ / 0-)

    Boo Fucking Hoo.  Betcha lots aren't $100-300,000 a pop either like in CA.  Open yer wallets. DO you hear what you are saying?  $5000 to save a family is too pricy?

    GOP Wars against: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigrants, Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, Women, Unions, Workers, Unemployed, Voters, Elderly, Kids, Poor, Sick, Disabled, Dying, Lovers, Kindness, Rationalism, Science, Sanity, Reality.

    by SGWM on Wed May 22, 2013 at 11:18:50 PM PDT

  •  You'd think that they could build shelters (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, The Jester, Nespolo, llywrch

    that could be dual -use

    e.g., a big ass underground fortified room that could also be used a gym or for band practice.  Or even as a cafeteria or for after school bible study groups. . .. .

    •  I agree. I have no explanation for this incredible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      gap in Oklahoma School Safety. One of the stories I recently linked to above indicates that some parents, "assumed" there would be shelters at schools and learned that there were not. had an editorial also asking why, but it has been removed--why I don't know. I couldn't find it when I returned when updating this diary.

    •  NOAA - Storm Prediction Center (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, Roadbed Guy

      strongly recommends against large-span areas, even if reinforced:

      DANGER - GYMS and AUDITORIUMS: Large, open-span areas, such as gymnasiums, auditoriums and most lunchrooms, can be very dangerous even in weak tornadoes, and should not be used for sheltering people. This sort of room has inherent structural weaknesses with lack of roof support, making them especially prone to collapse with weaker wind loading than more compact areas of the same school building. Consider the aerial photo of Caledonia (MS) High School (below) as an outstanding example of this, when the near side was hit by a tornado in January 2008.

      That is a very informative link and worthy of a full read, IMHO.

      If you scroll down the link about halfway, you'll see pictures of large-span areas.  Around this part of TX, during serious tornado threats, we try to keep students out of the gym, cafeteria & band hall.  For lunch, students get their food/drinks from the cafeteria and go back to the classrooms to eat.  This only happens a very few times a year, when radar shows large storms headed our way.

      The truth always matters.

      by texasmom on Thu May 23, 2013 at 06:39:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It obviously should be underground . .. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        texasmom, The Jester

        (btw, I couldn't find anything relevant on the link you posted).

      •  Perhaps they should take a lesson from the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite, Roadbed Guy

        United States Navy, and use bulkheads and create a sort of honey comb area, so that there are more reinforced area within a space. Though I do believe that if at all possible that this should be underground too. Or perhaps something like what BOHICA depicted in their diary ---see commentary above.

        •  Sure, the Navy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          or maybe FEMA, or even Dick Cheney who rumor has it ran his administration from an undisclosed underground location.

          Bottom line, the feds have plenty of experience moving things underground, now if only the Red State types under the gun from tornadoes weren't so averse to seeking out and using this accumulated wealth of knowledge and experiences.

          •  I am pretty sure that this isn't one sided (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Much like the problem with veteran's benefits. That seems to have been boggled by each administration regardless, and/or ignored.

            Prior to Fallon we had a Democratic Governor and so?

            But then I read an old story that was really screwed up from Shawnee from 2012. The state closed down 2 out of three good shelters, right before storm season because those shelters did not adhere to the American's with Disabilities Act.


            Another story from DeKalb Al, in which the FEMA didn't want to let the city put up signs that point to public storm shelters.

            Stupidity abounds, and sometimes it comes from way up on high and not necessarily from us little people.

  •  Too stupid to live syndrome.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, peggy

    This is just another part of the "heartland" though process.

    Whether it is "Jesus gonna look out fur me" or "personal responsibility, I'll look out fur my own", there is a serious mental illness known as Worldwide Republicanism.

    I heard the most ridiculous nonsense on NPR yesterday, with some "expert" being interviewed, yapping about how since the heartland has all this "red clay" that expands/contracts with rain and temperature, there is no way to actually build storm shelters, especially large ones, in the midwest.

    Utter bullshit from the same idiots that think the world is 6,000 yrs old, etc.

    Apparently no one edumacated in "the science" ever came out there to Redneckistan to show them how to build. We in the Northeast have to deal with extreme temperature variance and the ground always expands/contracts, yet almost 100% of buildings have basements.

    Just design to take this into account. A building is a ship, sailing in the ocean of the ground, design accordingly.

    1) DIG A HOLE, 50% larger than the basement/storm shelter will be. Placing at least 80% of the shelter/basement depth underground. Fill the hole part way with none clay fill. We are tearing entire mountains down in WVa, PA, etc.... ship it instead of dumping it in the valleys. Compress this fill on the bottom.

    2) Pour some number of cement footings, depending on the dimensions of the structure to come.

    3) place 12-18 inches of 3/4" stone in the hole, and around the footings, then place a grid of wire mess 4" about grade and re-bar to tie into the walls, lay a 6-8 inch concrete slab with fiberglass fibers in the mix.

    4) Set up your forms and pour 6" concrete walls with embedded stainless steel bolts or re-bar to tie into the floor system (either 6x8 or 8x12 rim joists, or poured concrete slab), then place french drains along the outside walls and back fill with more 3/4" stone for 6-8" from the walls, and good none clay fill for the rest of the volume. Compacting as you go.

    5) With the floor system bolted and tied into the foundation an EF-5 can blow over and your below ground level basement will remain intact. The entire rest of the house would be torn off, but you will remain safe in your basement shelter.

    6) For extra protection build a concrete room-within-a-room inside the basement.

    •  I can tell you that OKC has an entire part of it's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Expat Okie, The Jester

      city undergound. Many parking garages in OKC and Norman are partially underground--way underground. So I am not sure who they talked to on NPR, but that does sound like a load of crap.

      Even if it were true, then the obvious solution would be to build multiple shelters and install small safe rooms throughout the school.

      Part of OU Library is underground. And I think part of the UCO library is underground too. You can go to the Basement level in several large buildings around the metro area, including several hospitals, so like you I am going to have wonder just what the heck those people are talking about.

      Also, we have clay soil and we have a small shelter, no problem.

      That being said, as much as this pisses me off too, I am trying to do my best to not let it get to me. I know a lot of good people here, that would take exception to your characterizations. It's not perfect, but the phenomenon you describe is certainly not limited to Oklahoma, or Texas, or even to the South in general.

      •  I know, it kills me too. I don't mean to.... (0+ / 0-)

        insult and generalize, but the people in power and the leaders who are themselves pinheads or fear monger and take advantage of the ignorant and under educated infuriate me.

        This sickness I call Worldwide Republicanism is very serious. It uses ignorance and weakness and superstition to control and take advantage of people.

        These people, leaders who have for decades resisted taking measures to increase the safety of the citizens in the name of money, I regard these as crimes against humanity and I want them punished for it. How many school kids have to die before this ends? Whether it is storm shelters in a region where you face the very real threat of tornado's, or hurricane's or earthquakes, or fires, and something as simple as how about seat belts on school buses..... it's all a case of WTF are you waiting for? How do you make the decision to price out childrens and civilians lives to save a buck, so the wealthy won't have to be burdened kicking back some of their ill-gotten gains?

        •  But we have had legislators and leaders (0+ / 0-)

          on both sides of the aisle Jester.

          I am angry about the GOP for lots of things, but it weakens our arguments when we blame them exclusively for issues in which they had help or counterparts?

          Although someone suggested that big corporations could donate funds to build these shelters and have a say in naming them. Not my favorite idea, but better than nothing. However read the updates, some things are happening with regard to this issue. Not sure how it will turn out, but things are moving.

  •  they wont pass this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, llywrch

    the state legislature is full of cheapskates.

    The state didn't do this in the 99 F5, or the 03 F4.

    They will figure, "We have 10,000 schools in this state,
    if we lose 1 or 2 a year it's God's Will".

  •  Frequency of School Tornado Deaths in OK (0+ / 0-)

    Monday was the 3rd time in Oklahoma history that there were deaths at a school during the school day. The others were in 1917 (at an Indian Mission school, described as poorly built in the description of the tornado in Tom Grazulis's book, Significant Tornadoes) and in 1930. There have been deaths at schools on two other occasions-1944 at an evening basketball practice and in 1945 at a dormitory at the residential School for the Blind at ~10 PM.

    It's an interesting public policy question as to how much you plan for something that has resulted in 13 deaths in 95 years in the entire state.

    •  I am a bit at a loss--Are you suggesting that (0+ / 0-)

      because these numbers are statistically small, that it doesn't justify taking basic safety measures given the fact that we have Tornado Season Every YEAR like clockwork?

      Or did I read your post wrong?

      •  Basic? (0+ / 0-)

        What do you man by "basic?" By basic, build well when you build new and use the space as best you can in old structures. Retrofitting in old construction is expensive. A state legislator has proposed $300M for building shelters at a time when education budgets are being cut. It's a legitimate question to ask how $300M would best be spent. If the goal is to reduce loss of life in tornadoes in Oklahoma, then putting in shelters at mobile home parks would be much more cost-effective than building shelters in schools.

        •  Just making sure that was what you meant (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peggy, jan4insight, Expat Okie

          before I replied.

          Yes, Basic.

          It's okay, you have never actually been in a Tornado, nor seen people after the fact, with crap sticking out of them. I was in Moore right after the big one in 99, to help a friend move her belongings out of the smoking hole that used to be her apartment.

          There was a minivan 20 feet off of the ground and tied in a bow around the splintered remains of a light pole. It smelled like shit, because the gas lines had been ripped open, and sewage lines were exposed, and there was molding wet insulation everywhere around the splinters and rusty nails. Flattened cars that looked like they had been pulled from a junk yard right after being crushed. No birds singing, everything covered with mud and who knows what else, wet clothes, and photographs and crap just everywhere, knee deep. My spouse was part of the teams that went house to house searching for survivors. No big deal. Just some stiff winds right--don't make a mountain out of a mole hill.

          Then entire town looked just as it does now. And you all out there, outside of Oklahoma, really only hear about the really big tornadoes that hit Moore, you don't really hear about ALL the tornadoes that hit Moore, or any other Oklahoma town, for that matter.

          People come here on vacation from all over the world, to ride in vehicles with professional storm chasers. They spend their valuable money and vacation time, because it's pretty much a given if you come at the right time of the year, you will get up close and personal with a tornado of some kind.

          So yea, Basic.

          Out here, Storm Shelters should be as basic as seat-belts, life preservers, and circuit breakers. They might be expensive, but they are badly needed, and well worth the cost.

          Just ask any of the family members attending memorials this week. They can tell you. Or the teachers who are in the hospital with cracked spines,  because they were covering the bodies of their students with their own body, putting themselves between 200+ MPH winds, and a pile of brick rubble.


          As basic as Tornado Sirens themselves and doppler radar, and Nexrad, and the amazing chasers in vans, and helicopters that warn us down the Street where this stuff is heading.

          You can blow it off and throw a fit, I don't really care.
          I know the kind of mentality you represent right now.
           You won't get it until it happens to you.

          Message received loud and clear.
          Moving along now.

          •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

            You're wrong. I've done more damage surveys than you've seen tornado damage and I know more about the occurrence of tornadoes in Oklahoma and anywhere else in the US than anyone on this forum. I can tell you exactly how many tornadoes passed within 25 miles of Moore from 1950-2012 (220) and how many of them were F/EF4 or F/EF5 (9)

            I've had a child in a school that was hit by a tornado and my wife, a teacher, has had to shelter kids in her classroom and walk out of the school to see damage across the street. I have a friend who is a teacher at Plaza Towers and another at Apple Creek. I've had to help design safety plans for schools in Oklahoma, knowing that the shelter wasn't perfect, but that perfection is very expensive.

            People have looked at the costs of shelters. I suggest you read Merrell et al. . In 2002, their estimated cost per life saved by storm shelters for permanent home residents in Oklahoma was $29M and for mobile home residents $2.6M. Assuming perfect protection for all schools in Okahoma for the $400M in the proposal, over the last 95 years, the cost per fatality saved would be ~$15M/life.

            When you do new construction, put in a shelter, by all means. That's what my family did and it was used both on Sunday and Monday. Retrofitting is expensive and it is not a silly question to debate the costs and benefits of various public policy options.

            If you want to save lives in Oklahoma from tornadoes, then encouraging shelters for mobile homes is the most cost-effective approach. There have been more people killed in mobile homes in tornadoes in Oklahoma in the past 4 years than in schools in the last 95 years.

            There are lots of other issues associated with public shelters (how and when are opened, closed, what to do with pets, liability, transportation, etc.) that are worthy of discussion, but they should be discussed in the context of their costs and benefits in relationship to other policies.

            •  Another factor is time... (0+ / 0-)

              Typically there is less than 15 minutes of notice ( before a tornado touches down.  That means to get to a shelter you have at the outside 13 minutes to blink the sleep from your eyes, figure out whats going on, dress, grab the kids and pets and get to the shelter.  Keep in mind human babies unlike all other mammals do not go still and silent when scared we scream our heads off.  The cat and dog will be doubtless hiding and need to be found.  

              Best thing to do, as I understand it, is to mildly harden houses:

              Put safe areas in new school and public building construction and larger workplaces.  Use existing cell phone networks to provide warnings.  

              Perfect isn't necessary, good enough is.  

              I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

              by DavidMS on Thu May 23, 2013 at 08:31:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Expletive Deleted. (0+ / 0-)

                The technology exists now, that give us a week of warning of the most likely days these sorts of outbreaks will happen.

                15 minutes?  Pshaw--only if you are not paying attention to forecasters. Which you do at your own risk in these parts.

                And with our understanding of Storm Tracking, we know often an hour or more in advance where these dangerous storms are going to travel.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW!

                The only caveat is whether or not tornadoes will stay on the ground or hop. But knowing an HOUR or MORE in advance that a dangerous, rotating Mesocyclone is heading your way is more than enough time to get your ass under ground, and that includes getting school children or anyone else in large groups, to shelter.

                If I read pissed off, it's because I am tired of the bullshit excuses. People don't have to die for these any more. We can read storm signatures on radar way before they get to populated areas.

                I lived here when a 15 minute warning was a fantastic miraculous myth, when it came to storm warnings.

                This crapola about it not being dangerous until the tornado is on the ground is the dumbest exercise in idiocy I have ever seen and I am not going to perpetuate that terrible, idiotic habit. And that is all it is--A HABIT.

                AND--and I cannot stress this enough, Public shelters under schools could save other lives as well.

                If you like watching people die of idiocy while you negotiate about imagined time, and how much $$$ it's going to cost us, be my guest. But I won't participate in that. I am sick of it.

                Oklahoma sure as hell, had a lot less cash back in the 50s, and yet public buildings came with Fall Out Shelters.

                And a Hardened house is only good up to a point. These are EF5s that come through this area periodically.

                The only real solution is to turn that strip into a nature preserve and not rebuild. Good luck with that.

                But barring that, Underground shelters are the only thing that is adequate to protect human lives from EF5 Tornadoes.

                •  Knowing days isn't enough (0+ / 0-)

                  Knowing where a tornado will touch down is necessary to and at roughly what time is necessarily to apply that sort of evacuation plan.  To realistically evacuate on that sort of schedule, detailed forecasting is required.  In my online searches, tornado formation can be predicted for specific days over large regions but sending everyone to shelters in a multi-state area for an entire day is unrealistic.  The warnings need to at least an hour in advance, geographically specific to a county and accurate, At least 70% of the time.  Otherwise people will view them as crying wolf and will ignore the warnings.  

                  The goal is to reduce morbidity and mortality from all causes, picking the cheapest projects first and working to more expensive ones so that every dollar spent has the maximum effect on improving our lives on either a years of life saved or net lives saved basis.  

                  I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                  by DavidMS on Fri May 24, 2013 at 08:47:20 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sorry David, you lose. Knowing those days is (0+ / 0-)

                    better than anything we could ever hope for.

                    Go back to being a CPA, and stop treating people like numbers.

                    If you personally choose to pretend that when the Forecasters predict a dangerous, rotating mesocyclone or Supercell thunderstorm as a "Cry Wolf" scenario, that shows your ignorance about how these storms work.

                    Storms that show the appropriate radar signatures, and those known to produce tornadoes in previous towns are knowledge enough to take cover.

                    If your home is in the path, but is spared, either because the storm wobbled, turned, or the tornado dissipated, then count yourself lucky, but never doubt that was the moment that the big bad wolf was knocking at your door.

                    •  Again its a cost/benifit tradeoff (0+ / 0-)

                      Spending that kind of money may mean that children won't get affordable healthcare, that college becomes even more expensive, that money will not be available to combat climate change, end HIV/AIDS or replace worn out bridges.  

                      Everything in life is a trade off.  There has never been a free lunch.  We can never have it all.  

                      What we can do is use our limited resources to best make life safer and more comfortable for everyone.  Spending billions on a difficult to predict and rare threat (EF5 storms) while ignoring other causes of human misery isn't very progressive.  

                      I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                      by DavidMS on Mon May 27, 2013 at 08:47:52 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Be sure and tell that to the people who lost (0+ / 0-)


                        Cost Benefit trade off--Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

                        •  I will remember to (0+ / 0-)

                          Tell everyone who lost someone to a lack of healthcare that you would prefer to mitigate rare and spectacular risks.  

                          I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                          by DavidMS on Mon May 27, 2013 at 07:18:28 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh Wow---I love it when people present me with (0+ / 0-)

                            False Choices.

                            Which is it going to be?

                            You can only have one!

                            Health Care, or Storm Shelters in Public Schools in Tornado Alley.

                            Think carefully--because you can only have one.

                            That's a load of crap.

                            I suppose next you are going to tell us that in California, you can only have Health Care OR Earthquake Building Codes.


                            Health Care OR Tsunami Evacuation Plans,

                            Health care OR the USGS Volcano Monitoring System?

            •  I am sorry, your attitude makes your statement (0+ / 0-)

              less than credible.

              •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                That's fine. I don't care about your view of my credibility.

                I don't think you've thought through the trade-offs very well or you'd understand why most emergency management personnel don't like public shelters (issues of when it opens, when it closes, what do you do when more people show up than the shelter can hold, having people driving around prior to the tornado, safety issues within the shelter, etc.) and why school districts aren't all that comfortable with opening up (the Edmond schools had $10-20,000 in costs to clean up and repair damaged property after people ended up in their schools in the Feb 2009 tornado). You might disagree with their conclusions, but their arguments should be considered. I will pass along to the forecasters your high opinion of their abilities.

                I will disagree with your statement that underground shelters are the only thing that is adequate to protect human lives from EF5 tornadoes. It is simply not true. Most of the people that were in houses that were rated F5 on May 3rd survived and, in the Monday tornado, no one died in the only structure that received EF5 damage.

                •  Really? Emergency Management Personnel prefer (0+ / 0-)

                  to dig bloody and broken adults and children out of rubble? That's Rich! I will take that under advisement.

                  People who could afford to build hardened houses. People who can afford shelters.

                  However, When your child is at school, Parents should not encounter a locked down school with NO SHELTER with a Tornado Barreling down upon that facility.

                  If Schools want to be accountable, then they need to have adequate shelters available for their students UNDERGROUND. Otherwise, all their tactics do is serve to create a convenient body count.

                  NO Thanks. Not for my kids, and not for children of friends or even of other citizens I may never meet.

                  If schools are going to insist on remaining open on days known in advance to produce extreme severe weather, and if they insist on lockdowns, then they should be required BY LAW to provide adequate shelters that can withstand EF5 Tornadoes

                  End of story.

                  •  Once more (0+ / 0-)

                    No, they don't prefer that. I believe you're being deliberately obtuse. Emergency managers prefer to save lives. The question is what process leads to the most lives saved for whatever money is spent.

                    I would suggest you speak to your city's local emergency manager about why emergency managers in general don't like public shelters. It's not because they want people to die, but because they have evaluated the options and believe the issues associated with public shelters don't necessarily decrease fatalities. As a starting point, read what the city of Moore says here. They don't go into all of the issues associated with public shelters (how do you make sure they're open when you need them to be and closed when you don't want access to them, do you allow pets). They'd have to weigh the costs and issues associated with underground vs. hardened shelters. On 3 May 1999, there was an indirect death when a man in a wheelchair was dropped taking him into an underground shelter that ended up being 3 miles from the path. Access is a significant issue.

                    Not counting the Indian mission school in 1917, there have been a total of 13 people killed in schools in the entire state of Oklahoma's history. That's less than the number killed in mobile homes in the last 4 years in the state. If your goal is to reduce death tolls, as mine is, then the focus should start by encouraging shelter options where people die often, not where they rarely die. For the $400,000,000 proposed for school shelters, you could provide shelters for 100,000 homes. If that money isn't allocated by the state, who's going to pay for these required shelters? Should the Norman and Oklahoma City and Putnam City and Mid-Del school districts have all closed for the day on Monday, even though tornadoes during the school day are rare in Oklahoma (75% of all tornadoes within 100 miles of OKC are on the ground between 5 and 9 PM).

                    There has been one F5/EF5 tornado that has killed someone at a school in Oklahoma history (Monday) and there were no deaths at the school with the EF5 damage.

                    •  I am not being Obtuse. I am merely tired of (0+ / 0-)

                      this attitude from outsiders.

                      Who is going to pay?

                      The same people who are paying now.

                      We pay for everything. Why not save some lives while we pay this time, instead of paying in money, time, and loss of lives.

                      It's doable. This never has to happen again.

                      I believe you are the one being obtuse.

                      This Never Has To Happen Again.

                      •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                        I support putting a shelter in new construction, just as Moore did when they they repaired Westmoore and rebuilt Kelly Elementary. People should do shelters in their homes when they build new or add on. The added cost is small when part of a big project. The analyses that I've seen strongly suggest that doing new construction simply for storm shelters at schools will result in fewer lives saved per dollar spent than many other things.

                        I don't understand what you mean about "outsiders." I live in Oklahoma. A friend is a teacher at Plaza Towers. I had a long talk yesterday with another friend who was in shelter with her students at a school that was missed by 100 yards.

                        •  I find your statements hard to believe given (0+ / 0-)

                          the nature of your previous statements.

                          The fact that some schools don't have shelters is the cause of someone's short sightedness.

                          What's done is done. Now we get to remedy this. Sometimes when you cut corners, you don't just pay in lives.

                          It's time to do what should have been done a long time ago. It will cost us.

                          It's going to suck. But it has to be done. It is the responsible thing to do .

                          Poorer school districts have shelters outside of that area, that completely blows my mind. And then I am just thankful that the people in those areas were able to sacrifice enough or find access to funds to do what every district and every school should do, should have done, years ago.

                •  And Further More--My High Opinion of Forecasters (0+ / 0-)

                  Have you ever looked at the NOAA and NWS "discussions"? They know far in advance, what weather patterns to watch, and if you read these pages, you will too. This isn't encrypted or kept from regular citizens.
                  Main Page:
                  Click on OKC on the first mainpage interactive map and it brings up this next page:  which shows active radar images and local watches. Right now the state appears to be in a Hazardous Weather Outlook--it's color coded beige.

                  You can click on Hazardous Weather Outlook and it says:


                  So basically we can expect thunder, lightning, a little wind and rain, but no severe storms producing tornadoes, high winds, torrential rains or large hail.

                  Under the discussion:

                  My high opinion? Well I now know not to go an any long hikes in areas prone to flooding, and if I don't want hail dings in my car, don't leave it uncovered tonight.


                  THUNDERSTORM OUTLOOK...

                  So--Sat May 24th through Thursday, May29th--that's 5 days out now--thunderstorms could happen, but the atmosphere as the models project will not support organized, severe weather. 5 Days!

                  Now then if I am smart, and I keep checking back to these pages, I will know if something changes in the atmosphere, that might lead to severe weathers. It's rather handy for camping and hiking, or just knowing when not to stray too far from home, or how fast one should drive to get out of the risk area during the course of a trip somewhere else.

                  If you click on OKC on the NWS interactive Map again, it will pull up the 7 Day Forecast! 7 whole days!
                  You can also narrow it down even further [geographically speaking]  by clicking on the Zone Area Forecast.

                  When NWS posts material warning in advance of Severe Weather, you can check out the Weatherdude diaries, and see what those graphics look like. FYI, I am simply utilizing his blogs because he provides these graphics. I did not ask his permission.


                  Note here, though, that this post is on Monday, and it predicts severe weather chances everyday with it peaking on Weds.

                  And see where the really bad stuff is centered? If you live in that red area, you know, all weak will be chancy weather, not to stray too far from shelter, and that Weds is going to be particularly hazardous, so get your errands run before noon on Weds [because afternoon convection heating is an issue in the afternoon]

                  Thanks to the software and the forecasters who analyze this, it's not rocket science on our end. We get the end product which is pretty snazzy and useful.
                  NWS had this to say about community shelters.

                  What about community tornado shelters? Community tornado shelters are excellent ideas for apartment complexes, schools, mobile home parks, factories, office complexes and other facilities where large groups of people live, work or study. FEMA has some excellent design and construction guidance for these kinds of shelters; and a licensed engineer can help customize them to the needs of your facility.
  •  Why just schools? Hospitals too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A hospital may have patients that cannot be moved far, or quickly.  Putting shelters in there as well seems to make sense to me.

    And as another commenter suggested, you can make these things dual use.  I have a cold storage room in my basement that is lined and roofed with poured concrete, and will be a fine storm shelter if needed.  In the meantime it has a regular use as well.  Perhaps the emergency shelter in a public building could double as a place for the emergency generator and supplies, since you also want that to survive in a storm.

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