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Safety Strategies for Tornados and High Winds

 
master pollinator
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What are permies doing to protect their families, homes, land and/or livestock from the devastating effects of high winds and tornados? Recent tornados have gone through many of the states where many of our permaculture contributors have their homesteads. I hope that you and your loved ones are safe.
Please share some first-hand learnings that could help others in high wind alleys.  I'll start by relating this past summer's incident where a dust devil took off my neighbor's shed roof which ended up smashed against our mud wall. Happily, the neighbor's new shed has hurricane straps.
 
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I grew up in Iowa.  Tornados are just a part of life there.  One tip I have is, if you are traveling and see a tornado it will typically be traveling from Southwest to Northeast.  You can use this to dodge out of the path.
 
gardener
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We've got the first of our stronger winter storms as I type. My heart goes out to those affected in the US today.
Our winds can typically get up to 90mph+ most winters, 40mph is 'a bit breezy'. We're expecting about 60mph tonight so not too bad. The wind can be locally magnified by the surrounding hills and cliffs, causing significant lifting effects and sending caravans flying.
Keeping stuff outside relatively tidy is a must, I've moved two big builders crates under cover this evening, since they are empty having been used for washing my dag end fleeces. Just hoping the the top door doesn't fall off the polytunnel - I should have mended that already. One of my holly bushes is pulling itself out of the ground already. It's leaning across one of my paths. I'm imagining it taking off like a giant prickly tumbleweed tonight! Our ground is soft with rain just now.
Strapping for anchoring caravans/mobile homes a must as already mentioned. Roof straps around here are also longer than conventional for root trusses. Rain goes up as well as along, so weather sealing tends to be prioritised over ventilation. Smaller windows are much stronger against being pulled out, Main doors and windows should be in the lee of the wind if possible.
When the wind picks up make sure you are prepared for the power to cut out suddenly...
 
pollinator
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There was a terrible tornado outbreak here back in the early 1970s, which I remember very, very, well. Because of that the downstairs of my house is largely underground and although from what I understand it isn't considered very permie, it is made of 4000 psi, steel reinforced concrete, I don't regret it.

The A-frame upstairs is made of doubled up 2x10s fixed with carriage bolts instead of nails. Still a direct hit of a strong funnel could take it apart and the south front downstairs has a lot of glass so extra heavy materials went into the interior walls and especially the walls and ceiling of the bathroom located in the northwest corner. It's the most fully underground part of the house and doubles as the storm shelter. The window which is big enough to climb out is thick polycarbonate instead of glass.

I didn't know what else to do except make sure heavy boots, gloves and tools are handy any time a bad storm is anticipated. The dogs of course come in; the chickens would just get some flight training.
 
master gardener
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Mark Reed wrote:

although from what I understand it isn't considered very permie, it is made of 4000 psi, steel reinforced concrete, I don't regret it.

A house that falls apart in a storm, leaving you homeless, loses all it's embodied energy, turning it all into landfill. That's not pemie either. Yes, learning how to build new construction that can withstand the "new normal of storms" with less embodied energy is a wonderful goal, but building more of the crap housing on the hopes that a storm won't hit you seems both irresponsible and a much larger waste.

Finding environmentally sound ways to build so as to survive a tornado needs to be done. I suspect it can it be done without using huge amounts of concrete and steel, by using better designs for both the house itself and the surrounding environment, and by reinforcing key parts of a structure. One example would be using bolts all the way through rather than nails that can pull out. Another would be improving dome technology (at the moment, too many domes spring leaks, and rain tends to go along with tornados!) It will be great if permies could come up with some really good solutions.
 
pollinator
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I will start a conversation about designing for tornados separately
 
pollinator
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One of the key principles of permaculture is "people care" - and making sure we are physically safe in our environment is absolutely core to this. Don't be bashful about using appropriate industrial techniques where they are needed. It's where they are not needed that we should be objecting.
 
pollinator
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As someone who lives in earthquake territory, I have no first hand tornado experience....

BUT if I lived in a tornado prone area, I would think a root cellar would be ones best friend...

As to building for weather, storms, or whatever Mother Nature decides to unleash, it only seems prudent to go the extra mile in fasteners, lumber size, foundation and foundation attachments.  Most places have building codes, generally this is not be a PITA (pain in the arse) but for safety purposes; assume these are the absolute minimum, and build it the absolute best you can, the first time, if you are building.  Fasteners, wood, steel, insulation etc. are NEVER the items to scrimp on, in my opinion.

There are so many resources that speak to how to better secure your home for whatever natural disasters are most likely to be of issue it boggles my mind that folks do not do this research BEFORE buying or building.  I am also shocked at how many "professionals" are quite happy to skirt the regulations or downright ignore them.  When we were building a cover for our deck whenever I brought up "snow load" they looked at me like I was crazy, each responded "well, that doesn't happen often" or "that is only once a year at most"!!!  Why would I waste my time, money and materials building a flimsy roof structure for my deck that would be unlikely to stand up to an unusual snowfall???  Needless to say, it took over two years, and countless tradespersons before I found someone who would build it out of 4x4's braced and cross braced, both above and below the deck, roofed with metal so it 'should' last a lifetime.

So many folks get caught up in the "pretty stuff" and ignore the unseen stuff such as quality fasteners, lumber, insulation, windows, shutters etc.; sadly, no matter how much you "love" that floor...it is a waste of money if the home is not solidly built to be your refuge when Mother Nature throws a tantrum.
 
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My family property was hit back in October, I think the weather service estimated it was an EF-2.  On the "small" end of tornadoes, with gusts above 110 mph.  Wasn't really a permaculture plot, mostly hayfield, pasture, and woodland with some low intensity timber management, with plans to build it up as I reach retirement age.  Tornado wasn't in the plan-it's humbling seeing first person nature is ambivalent about your plans and will happily reset the successional clock to zero, without your thoughts or input.  

The house my grandfather built in the 1940's was only about 200 yards away and suffered no serious damage.  Can't prove anything, but it  made me think how we talk about old buildings breathing, to reduce moisture and rot.  Modern structures may suffer not only from inferior hardware and materials, but they may be unable to equilibrate with the enormous pressure changes a tornado creates.   Maybe we can engineer around that with more concrete and steel.  Maybe we don't need to.  

The maple trees were too close to the house, and too close to the powerlines.  They're still standing, but mostly devoid of branches.  Don't plant too close to the house- big mature trees look nice far away, not through your roof or living room window.  

The family had no power for three days, weren't able to use paved roads for nearly a week.  You have to figure out a way to stay put.  Keep food frozen or refrigerated, keep an electric well pump powered.  I hate ATVs- but I now see the value in one.  It's easier to clear a path for an ATV than a car or truck- and if someone's injured, that matters.  Knowing the lay of the land matters, how you can get to your neighbors on foot, if roads are unusable.  Know your neighbors- not just for your sake, but for theirs.  Know who needs checked on.  Let people know where you are.    We like to think of permaculture and homesteading as an idyllic off-grid lifestyle, but in an emergency, that's a double edged sword.  If no one knows you're there, no one knows to go looking for you.  

Keep things tidy.  Avoid junk.  Don't defer maintenance.  Store things properly.  The neighbor's pile of foam insulation and leftover building supplies went flying, I'll be cleaning that up for a decade.   Every loose board or shingle or scrap of sheet metal, every tire, every stud,  every trough, every propane tank, everything you can pry loose or lift and a lot of the stuff you can't becomes a missile flying through the air at 100+ mph.  

I'm grateful this wasn't a project I was far along on, and there's plenty of time to make new plans.  Maybe cordwood instead of cob.  I'll invest more inoculating logs than I would have, I'll explore things like tapping non-maple hardwoods that remain.  It'll be an absurd amount of work, but I can still leave this little piece of earth nicer than I found it.  That hasn't changed.  
damage.JPG
Tornado damage - torn up trees
Tornado damage - torn up trees
haybarn.jpg
Tornado damage haybarn roof torn off
Tornado damage haybarn roof torn off
burroak.JPG
Tornado damage Burr oak fallen
Tornado damage Burr oak fallen
 
master steward
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I grew up in Oklahoma where they have lots of tornados.

The only threat I remember was when I was in elementary school.  The teacher has us kids get under the stairwell until the threat was over.

I have always heard to get into the bathtub though I never liked this idea because in our houses the bathroom had a window and big mirror.

I like the idea of getting into a closet in an interior room as this seems a much better idea to me.

I have also heard to open a window. I feel this is probably the wrong thing to do.  Keeping all doors and windows closed is much better.

I ask Mr. Google who said:

Also, Keep exterior doors and windows closed to minimize rain and flying debris. Closing interior doors will also help to compartmentalize the building and provide more barriers between you and the storm.

I was at home the two times a tornado hit my neighborhood.  It was scary.  The first time, the street in front of our house looked like a river.  The turbine on the roof was blown off and we found it several streets over.  The second time, my neighbor told me he found metal wrapped around a tree.
 
pioneer
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Jay Angler wrote:Mark Reed wrote:

although from what I understand it isn't considered very permie, it is made of 4000 psi, steel reinforced concrete, I don't regret it.

A house that falls apart in a storm, leaving you homeless, loses all it's embodied energy, turning it all into landfill. That's not pemie either. Yes, learning how to build new construction that can withstand the "new normal of storms" with less embodied energy is a wonderful goal, but building more of the crap housing on the hopes that a storm won't hit you seems both irresponsible and a much larger waste.

Finding environmentally sound ways to build so as to survive a tornado needs to be done. I suspect it can it be done without using huge amounts of concrete and steel, by using better designs for both the house itself and the surrounding environment, and by reinforcing key parts of a structure. One example would be using bolts all the way through rather than nails that can pull out. Another would be improving dome technology (at the moment, too many domes spring leaks, and rain tends to go along with tornados!) It will be great if permies could come up with some really good solutions.



Houses built with something like ICF (especially those with poured ICF roofs as well) tend to do quite well against most categories of tornadoes.  just do a quick image search of "ICF Tornado" and you'll see dozens of images of whole neighborhoods leveled with the handful of ICF-built homes still standing, needing a little siding and roof work but otherwise mostly unaffected.  https://icfbase.com/learn/disasters-dont-devastating.  The materials that produce ICF aren't exactly the most green, styrofoam, plastic, and concrete, but when the walls will survive basically anything, it definitely begins to feel like a safer solution than a conventionally stick-built home.  
 
Jay Angler
master gardener
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Laurel Jones wrote:

The materials that produce ICF aren't exactly the most green, styrofoam, plastic, and concrete, but when the walls will survive basically anything, it definitely begins to feel like a safer solution than a conventionally stick-built home.

Exactly - part of my point is that we need to keep working on a little more environmentally sound - hopefully leading to significantly more environmentally sound - but not feeling guilty if we are in an area with specifically high risk for certain problems, and choose a method that isn't there yet, because we need a home and shelter now - not 10 years from now.

Things that might be worth researching:
1. What did our indigenous ancestors do to survive tornados?
 a) not be there? Many were nomadic and may well have known that certain times of the year weren't good ones to be in some areas.
 b) only camp or have settlements based on landforms that protected them from such storms (there are permies here that have identified that they've bought land that hasn't had a direct hit tornado in 70 years - they were identifying protective landforms)
2. If you have a toxic or large energy footprint building method that's been shown to work, how do we produce similar but better? Maybe use hemp boards instead of styrofoam for the same idea as an ICF? That still uses rebar and concrete, but would aircrete instead of regular concrete actually do just as good a job but use less concrete?
3. Does anyone have access to serious wind-tunnel equipment? Is there equipment in Colleges in the recently hit area that has equipment to simulate tornado action? (it's not straight wind - it's a spiral - which changes the forces involved) It would be so cool to build a WOFATI model and see how it faired.

Anne Miller wrote:

I ask Mr. Google who said:

Also, Keep exterior doors and windows closed to minimize rain and flying debris. Closing interior doors will also help to compartmentalize the building and provide more barriers between you and the storm.

I find that interesting, because I've also heard that sometimes failure is caused when the difference between 'internal pressure' and 'external pressure' become so great that the house essentially explodes. I would absolutely like to see more research done on that concept. Yes there's a lot of rain along with the wind, but would cracking a window on two sides of a house increase or decrease the risk of "explosive decompression". I would love to hear people's experiences with that concept. I'm not sure it would work the same in all types of housing - I do know that something I read recently talked about how houses are built to withstand the weight of gravity. Tornado forces are the reverse - they pull the house and particularly the roof of the house upward and typical houses aren't designed for that. I've read somewhere here on permies of people living in hurricane country essentially having a giant fish net that they spread over their roof and was tied down to the earth when a storm was coming and it worked.

Edited to add: I just saw a reliable source that clearly indicated that a closed house is safer - definitely an area researchers could do testing on! There could be a factor based on wind intensity, type of building etc. The increased pressure inside the building might be "resisting" the destruction rather than increasing it. Tornados are really nasty!
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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I have heard of 'fishnet stockings' but not 'fishnet house wrap' before!
 
pollinator
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Whelp in Wyoming you drive REALLY FAST past semi trucks in case one of them "goes to sleep". You get used to trees that appear to be falling over but are just leaning due to wind. You have a basement. You nail things back onto your outbuildings A LOT A LOT. Hell we had a dust devil rip off part of our outbuilding roof once. I don't know how many times I've built something and at the first wind my husband is at the window saying, "this is it, the test, will it blow over." I'd be insulted but I am a crappy builder. Umm I am selective about what trunk cover I use on my trees because the wind will rub them against the trunk so much it'll act like a rabbit ate it. I also trim the branches a bit more than probably most people to prevent wind rub.
 
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I've been through 2 tornados and hurricane.  The reason that they used to tell you to get into the bathtub with the mattress over you was that bathtubs used to be steel and would offer some protection from the flying debris.  Since most tubs are plastic now, its not helpful when you're dealing with wind speeds that will spear a tree branch or a board right through the house.  

Texas A&M (yes, the Aggies finally did something) offer plans on their website for various tornado shelters.  FEMA also has plans.  You can even buy them and have them installed either above ground or below, depending on your situation.  

If you live somewhere that's experiencing tornados, you should put alerts on your cell phone and get yourself to shelter.  Who cares if the whole farm blows away as long as you survive to rebuild it!
 
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When you are planning a building, consider the possible weather extremes much more important than cost.
A trail home in tornado alley is down right stupid!!
I would think that, by now, we would have figured out a building design that would withstand a tornado. Yet people keep building flimsy structures.
I've seen news where buildings were blown apart in 80km/hr winds. I think "Seriously, WTF!" Where I live, building are made to withstand 120- 140 km/hr wind.

A new resident to the province once asked if she should buy a greenhouse kit rated for 100km/hr wind. We all said "DON'T BUY IT!"
Someone said "if you do, make sure it's bolted to a solid foundation". Then another person said "I tried that, the only thing that stayed put were the pieces bolted directly to the concrete!"
 
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Having been the coordonator of research for RONA; here in Canada, during their Autoconstruction Project I recommend: folks living in Tornado zones or high fire risk regions should look at fireproof,semi-inground, bermed houses. Architect Winkleman of Nova Scotia created a great design for out autoconstruction students. Also; Least cost air-crete domes built into 10-20 degree slopes are also and option. Bucky Fuller's first Geodesic Domes were the least damaged after major hurricanes. The Inuit passed this build Round knowledge down to the generations after facing severy Tundra winds in the Arctic. If you are living on a concrete slab. create a safe room with steel- re-enforced concrete walls or a survival egg shaped capsule ; bolted into the slab which the family can jump into when an F3 is coming towards town. meanwhile hurricane tie everything that can fly!
 
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I wonder if this is too late?  Before cutting down those leaning holly trunks, I'd suggest propping them up again into their acceptable locations.  I've done this with a group of 25 ft + tall holly trees using a few sistered together lengths of padded 2x4's.  After the snow load had brought the trees to block the sidewalk, I thought they might be done, perfelling, marquetry or maybe firewood.  But, after using a come-along and a few props, they got strapped back up against the house.  After a few months and some rains, they settled back into their mostly original locations. Your Celtic wizards might appreciate and approve.  Couraggio


One of my holly bushes is pulling itself out of the ground already. It's leaning across one of my paths. Before



 
pollinator
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Jay Angler wrote:

Anne Miller wrote:

I ask Mr. Google who said:

Also, Keep exterior doors and windows closed to minimize rain and flying debris. Closing interior doors will also help to compartmentalize the building and provide more barriers between you and the storm.

I find that interesting, because I've also heard that sometimes failure is caused when the difference between 'internal pressure' and 'external pressure' become so great that the house essentially explodes. I would absolutely like to see more research done on that concept. Yes there's a lot of rain along with the wind, but would cracking a window on two sides of a house increase or decrease the risk of "explosive decompression".



From growing up with hurricanes in Bermuda I can tell you the problem of explosive pressure build-up is very real.  

When the hurricane (or a tornado) approaches, the barometric pressure drops not only very low, but also very fast.  This acts like a piston and if all the windows all closed, the pressure gets so intense, it can blow the roof partly off or detach it and move it off its base or blow out the windows or doors. I have personally seen this happen many, many times even with the stone houses in Bermuda.

A limestone Bermuda house (just because it's pretty):



All about limestone tile roofs:

Bermuda roofs

It is simple to avoid the problem of pressure build-up by keeping the windows on the leeward side of the house open an inch or two at all times when a storm is passing over.

It works like this: if the wind is coming from the west, open the windows on the east side.  When the storm shifts around to the other side as it passes overhead, you have to close the east windows and open the west windows.

You can still feel the pressure build-up in your ears like you are on a plane. (This fast pressure drop is also why lots of women go into labour during a hurricane.  In Bermuda the hospital always prepares for extra births during a storm.)

From a quick look online, there does not seem to be much in the way of research on this specifically.  Most of the resources were about improving building materials and building design eg. roof pitch, rather than looking at the low tech solutions.
 
 
pollinator
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When I bought this old house, it had a large closet framed in but not finished in one corner of the main-floor room that I use as an office/living room.  We got that finished off as a storm-shelter space, following directions from a couple of websites (three layers of half-inch plywood, one layer inside the closet and two on the outside walls).  Early Saturday morning we spent some time in it, as we were close to the track of one of the KY tornadoes -- it broke a window in our pastor's house a few miles away.   We don't have a basement; I'm hoping eventually to build a storm shelter/root cellar outside of the house.  But for now I'm thankful to have the closet to go in.  The first year we were here, we spent some time sitting in the stairwell during a tornado warning; that night, someone's barn a mile or so away was hit by a tornado.  The closet is not only probably safer, but definitely more comfortable, and I'm able to keep emergency supplies inside of it.

The house is old (built in the 1930's-1940's) and probably sturdier than most modern wood-framed houses, as this is built out of rough-cut lumber, and fastened together with American-made nails rather than the cheap Chinese junk nails that are about all you can find in the stores now.  But I'm still really thankful to have the storm closet.

Among the things that are going in the closet will be my rechargeable tools, including the electric chainsaw.  That's because one of the biggest dangers is getting stuck inside your shelter after the building is destroyed.  I'll also have some hand tools in there.  
 
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There are a number of very good ideas in this thread.  There are also a number of poorly informed concepts.  I am a retired engineer and was the risk assessment lead for my regional FEMA office.  It is not the pressure drop from an incoming storm one has to be concerned about.  A roof in a high wind essentially becomes a wing just as one builds a wing for a plane.  High winds passing by walls and roofs create very low pressure.  if one opens a window or door or debris/wind opens them, wind pressure enters the structure and adds to the overall lift.  I have worked dozens of hurricanes and many tornadoes over 26+ years.  I took part in review and creation of the International Code Council standards for high wind public shelters.  Do not open windows in a wind storm.  Long term exposure to attic temperatures will degrade wood.  A roof built to a good standard will age and weaken just as do we all.

Now, that said, for those in Canada or other British countries, there is a code for rain screen technology that shows how to reduce the pressure impacts from outside to inside.  Wind pressure from a hurricane/tornado can force water to move upwards up to 8 inches since inside pressure is usually lower than wind pressures on windward walls.  It is important to ensure water cannot enter the structure.  That code is very useful.

Insulated concrete form (ICF) technology is very wind resistant.  So are monolithic concrete domes (base wind storm resistance is 250 mph (roughly 402 kph).  If one uses silica dioxide or microcrystalline silica or fly ash (health hazard, so encapsulating in concrete is a good thing), the concrete increases to about 6000 psi and is highly water resistant.  Some areas are experimenting with natural reinforcement such as bamboo or rice hulls, again using green methods.  Use of hemp rope in cables used to enhance ropes was used in maritime tugboat lines, making them much harder to break and almost impossible to cut.

Be careful of using tiles on roofing.  During Hurricane Charley in Port Charlotte, FL (2004) a woman was sitting on her couch with 3/8 inch plywood shutters on the windows when a broken roofing tile was blown from over a quarter mile away and it pierced the shutter, embedding itself in the wall by her head.  Hard tiles must be carefully placed and will be unlikely to withstand both wind speeds and debris found in a tornado.  Once one tile breaks, it becomes hard debris that can break additional roof tiles and will become a potentially deadly projectile.

Be careful about what is around the home/structure.  Aggregate roofing or aggregate road material will become a cloud of missiles that will act much like buckshot on walls, windows and any unfortunate flesh (human or animal) within range.  One aggregate roof in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina caused about $5 Million in damage to structures within half a mile.  

Sturdy shutters are a good investment.  In addition, and this should be of interest to many permies, The U.S. National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) did a study on whether single, double or triple glazed windows resisted wildfire heat entry to a home best.  During the study, they found that aluminum foil was by far the best protection.  Moral, have sturdy, working shutters in high wind or wildfire prone areas and a roll of construction or heavy duty aluminum foil handy.  Wrap the shutters in foil and secure them in place.  This keeps heat from passing through the windows and igniting inside materials such as curtains.  Remember, wildfires are enhanced by high winds.

In wrapping up a section growing far too long, Keep important documents - deeds, birth certificates, Rx, extra glasses, etc in a ready to run condition and safe place, either protected from wind, fire, flood or with you as you evacuate a threatened location.  Many would miss photos or special mementos of loved ones, so consider how to protect them.  Use your natural tools of eye and brain to determine what can cause problems, rank those and determine how to address each to the best of your resources and ability.  If there are multiple answers, look to those that provide protection against multiple hazards (as in the above section on shutters) to leverage resource expenses.
 
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I don't live in a tornado alley but today, we are due to get a lot of rain and some pretty serious straight winds and there is an alert here for today. Temperatures that were in the 20s and 30s will suddenly rise to 59, absolutely crushing all heat records for the day by several degrees. I will be able to feed my bees, who will surely come out today, although if the winds are 50mph, they will stay in.
My heart goes out to those who were affected by these tornadoes and the tragedies that ensued. Indeed, when we purchase a home or build one, the prevalent weather events should feature in our choices, but that is not always possible, especially if you don't have much money. So one ends up in areas that are less safe, such as areas that are prone to flooding, tornadoes, fires etc. Yes, the poorest people, who can least afford to lose anything are usually the ones who will lose the most.
Once you own the problem property, however, there is always something you can do: Plan for the worst event that has ever been recorded in your area and overbuild. When I build something, or improve on what I bought, every joint will be "glued and screwed".
The Elmer's glue for wood makes a joint so strong that boards will break around it before the joint cracks. Also, I no longer use nails, even rink shank nails: they can pull out, and they rust.
I use screws for everything: Part of it is my sheer ignorance of the laws of physics: What will it take to come apart is not a knowledge I have. It will take a lot more to pull out a screw! I verify the length of the screws so they go through the 2nd board at least half way, better is 3/4 of the way. Deck screws are my favorite because they are coated and won't rust in weather [unless you mistreat them and remove some coating].
So basically, build it stronger than you have too, stronger than "the code" says.
Now D-Day comes and they tell you to prepare for strong winds that may uproot trees, and a lot of rain precipitation.
Have you called your neighbors? Do they know your situation? Do they have a way to shelter in place? Could you offer a place to shelter for a day or two? Have your neighbors' phone numbers.
Look around your property and secure everything that can move: Loose lumber leaning against a shed? lay it down, cover it if you can. Other items you may not have much room for? pack those deck chairs in the garage for the day, move them under the deck. Do what you can to secure anything that might become a projectile.
Last thing before it hits: Batten down the hatches, let your loved ones know what is coming and tell them when you will text them again or call them, email, whatever. Where to meet if the worst happens. Keep your phones charged, a radio handy, water, food. Go in survival mode.
As the rain comes, listen to the alerts and behave in consequence. don't be the person trying to take pictures of this "awesome tornado" approaching, or drive on flooded roadways because "it's not that deep".
They make great ,compelling videos, very entertaining. They also make the most deaths. Take shelter and don't come out until you are sure it is safe to do so.
 
Mark Reed
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
Plan for the worst event that has ever been recorded in your area and overbuild.


I agree completely!

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
The Elmer's glue for wood makes a joint so strong that boards will break around it before the joint cracks.


I'm not sure that's a good thing. I think a wood structure benefits from a little give here and there. If the joint is too rigid a break or split will happen someplace else. I like carriage bolts; they go all the way through in predrilled holes and are attached to the nut and washer on the other side, not really to the wood at all. A very slight difference between the diameter of the hole and the bolt allows a tiny amount of give in the joint and helps relieve stress on the members. That's why they call them carriage bolts, they were used to keep wooden wagons from tearing themselves apart on rough roads, something that neither nails nor screws can do.  




 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Mark Reed wrote:

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
Plan for the worst event that has ever been recorded in your area and overbuild.


I agree completely!

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
The Elmer's glue for wood makes a joint so strong that boards will break around it before the joint cracks.


I'm not sure that's a good thing. I think a wood structure benefits from a little give here and there. If the joint is too rigid a break or split will happen someplace else. I like carriage bolts; they go all the way through in predrilled holes and are attached to the nut and washer on the other side, not really to the wood at all. A very slight difference between the diameter of the hole and the bolt allows a tiny amount of give in the joint and helps relieve stress on the members. That's why they call them carriage bolts, they were used to keep wooden wagons from tearing themselves apart on rough roads, something that neither nails nor screws can do.




Carriage bolts are indeed pretty good. They don't go everywhere, though. Stud walls? I put them liberally on the stairs of my decks because you can access from both sides. I'm not convinced that a wood structure would benefit from a little give here and there, except maybe for expansion joints at the butt ends of deck planks of course.
In Europe, they have real shutters [not the decorative, narrow plastic junk that is affixed on either side of a window]. They are on hinges, of course, but when locked, they are an excellent protection against high wind, in spite of the slight gap (<1/4") all around.
The following are horribly high priced and still lack the heavy hinge and lock necessary, but you get the idea: https://www.wayfair.com/Dogberry-Collections--Traditional-Board-and-Batten-Exterior-Shutters-wtrad1448unfi-L6447-K~QLQV1267.html?refid=GX549243201781-QLQV1267_40992774_62349770&device=c&ptid=1432926975250&network=g&targetid=pla-1432926975250&channel=GooglePLA&ireid=85846050&fdid=1817&PiID%5B%5D=40992774&PiID%5B%5D=62349770&gclid=Cj0KCQiAweaNBhDEARIsAJ5hwbdeVaqjstq_JBUEPri5c6pKO8EK1vkV8bNS2x_uG3Lt9osnPOpKxdQaAgPHEALw_wcB

I keep wondering why they are not used more liberally in buildings subjected to high winds, especially those with glass windows. In Florida, for example, they would be a great barrier against tornadoes, rather than buy expensive plywood for every event or wondering where to store them during fair weather. They would be so easy to build ourselves, too.
They are also fantastic in high heat areas. In that case, they are still locked in a half open position that allows air to pass through. The darkened room is a lot cooler. I had them in my parent's house in the cold Alps and also in the warm south of France when I was little.


 
Richard Henry
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Reply to glue and screw and carriage bolt posts.  Bolts are indeed a strong method, however use of various plates populated by either nails or screws (most advertised brand - Simpson Strong Tie in the US) is preferable as the stresses are more diffused which is the true aim.  Diffuse stress below failure points across the structure and transmit those stress forces into the ground using a suitable anchoring system, reinforced foundation, pre-stressed concrete (pre- or post-tensioned) with cables, hemp, etc.  Remember to watch chemical failure issues such as placing different metals in direct contact, especially within 50 miles of a source such as the ocean for chlorides.  Standard concrete should be subject to additions of micro-silica to ensure blockage of chloride intrusion as that can lead to steel reinforcing being corroded.  Since rust is both chemically larger than straight steel, molecule for moilecule  (leading to chemical forces pushing the steel away from the concrete - not useful) and more brittle, I have seen untreated concrete spalling from rebar.  Differing metals create an electronic current that leads to corrosion.  Stainless steel against steel will still corrode.  Steel nails through treated lumber will corrode more rapidly.  For those with more technical background, it is also possible to use sacrificial anode cathodic protection to redirect the corrosion to a replaceable material.

If all one has are nails, follow basic rules. Never nail completely through both pieces of lumber one is fastening.  Piercing both weakens the bond.  Always nail against the last nail - if one nail is leaning left, the next should lean right to allow the two to create a higher tension bond.  Never nail or bolt or screw though wood in a straight line.  This is a personal peeve for manufacturers of reinforcing plates.  They fail to offset holes, forcing nailing or screwing along the wood's grain, creating a weakness that nature will attack to split the boards.  

As for allowing movement, look to the old style mortise and tenon construction.  When frame ties were attached, a hole was drilled through and a wooden peg was carved that had a smaller end than top which allowed the tenon to be installed easily and driven home.  I have seen modern equipment pulled to a stop by such framework requiring the beams to be cut to bring the frame down, even with some beams rotted.

If one is thinking of shutters, consider that shutters, unless carefully designed and installed will reduce air flow and most certainly light which effects some people negatively.  That is a good reason to consider a hurricane netting system such as Cat 5 (https://www.floridabuilding.org/upload/PR_Tech_Docs/FL6498_R0_TR_Pull_Test_06006PDF.pdf ), which has passed Miami-Dade Hurricane test requirements for 200 mph winds.  Use of strong mesh netting allows air circulation and even allows some light transmission.  Netting can be used for windows (I recommend a space between glazing and netting which exceeds specification) to prevent debris impacts and can be used for multiple items such as campers, barns, homes and even solar panels.  I have used mesh tarps to cover loads on my pickup and the wind was reduced to a major degree.  I never had a problem with blow off, even at interstate speeds.  I never saw testing by tornado test equipment for hurricane nets, but would be very interested to see how much they could resist.
 
Richard Henry
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When I bought this old house, it had a large closet framed in but not finished in one corner of the main-floor room that I use as an office/living room.  We got that finished off as a storm-shelter space, following directions from a couple of websites (three layers of half-inch plywood, one layer inside the closet and two on the outside walls).  Early Saturday morning we spent some time in it, as we were close to the track of one of the KY tornadoes -- it broke a window in our pastor's house a few miles away.   We don't have a basement; I'm hoping eventually to build a storm shelter/root cellar outside of the house.  But for now I'm thankful to have the closet to go in.  The first year we were here, we spent some time sitting in the stairwell during a tornado warning; that night, someone's barn a mile or so away was hit by a tornado.  The closet is not only probably safer, but definitely more comfortable, and I'm able to keep emergency supplies inside of it.

The house is old (built in the 1930's-1940's) and probably sturdier than most modern wood-framed houses, as this is built out of rough-cut lumber, and fastened together with American-made nails rather than the cheap Chinese junk nails that are about all you can find in the stores now.  But I'm still really thankful to have the storm closet.

Among the things that are going in the closet will be my rechargeable tools, including the electric chainsaw.  That's because one of the biggest dangers is getting stuck inside your shelter after the building is destroyed.  I'll also have some hand tools in there.  



I did not see any identification of which corner of the home this closet occupies.  Most cyclic storms in the northern hemisphere spin counter-clockwise, they also run from southwest to northeast.  Since tornadoes generally have a forward speed up up to 60 mph, the strongest winds will be in the northeast quadrant of the storm.  Your shelter is best placed in the northwest corner to allow it to see slower wind speeds while still having most of the structure as a shield.  In addition, I did not see any reinforcement for the ceiling of the shelter.  Really good practice is to make such a shelter as strong as possible and hopefully independent of the rest of the framing to reduce telegraphed stress.  A reinforced box is stronger than one with just stronger sides.

Remember that an outside shelter requires exposing the family.  Many tornadoes do not provide notice beyond the sound of an incoming freight train.  Consider a reinforced transit area from home to shelter, much safer.  One hill billy hack I once saw was a heavy concrete culvert set upright just under the bedroom window.  When the occupant heard the freight train, he jumped out the window just before the home headed for Oz.  He did not.

If you have room, it is a good idea to include some water and a small porta-potty.  If a tornado comes knocking, someone inside the shelter will likely need the potty.  Of course, appropriately sized diapers also provide in a pinch.

As noted in a post above, please remember that roof framing in an older home may have experienced heat weakening.  Very good idea to have strength checked by an expert - if you happen to have ice or snow loads, that check should look for cracks from winter damage.  I had a home where snow off an upper roof cracked the roof joists on a lower section.  I jacked the system back into place and glued & screwed heavy plywood reinforcements to each side of the cracked members.  Please enjoy your home, but never get complacent.  Nature has ways of pointing out vulnerabilities.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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"When I build something, or improve on what I bought, every joint will be "glued and screwed"."

My understanding is that unless using the really heavy duty construction screws (designed to replace lag screws) is that regular screws (such as deck screws) have a tendency to shear off when under stress; this is why nails are so commonly used, they bend rather than shear.

The ones we use are by GRK Fasteners and are "stronger than 1/2" diameter lag screws and twice as fast" www.grkfasteners.com  That said, they are WAAAAY pricer than regular screws, but on par or cheaper than lag screws.

As mentioned by a previous poster, it is the metal hurricane ties (Simpson) that are most crucial when building a structure.  These relatively inexpensive (a couple of bucks tops, each; although depending on the size of the structure, yes, this can get pricey) braces are designed for tying a structure together when winds want to tear it apart.  They are intended to be used with nails, and have twists so that when you attach a roof to walls, or walls to a foundation they have the ability to twist and flex allowing walls and attachments to also twist and flex rather than letting go.

I know my contractor was thrilled when I demanded hurricane (here they are often referred to as earthquake ties) ties AND 4x4 construction for our roofs over the porch and side decks - apparently most folks want to cut costs and this is the most common area they cut them: size of lumber and the mechanical attachments to roof and foundation.

We may not live in tornado country, but we do live where winds in excess of 100km are common enough.  We also live in earthquake country, and the hurricane ties and other methods for secure building in tornado zones are also applicable to the stresses caused by earthquake.

Funny story:  years ago I dug the countless post holes and built a 50 foot lean to shed; five feet high on the backside, 9 feet high on the front side, and 8 feet deep.  Upon completion the neighbor was quite keen to tell me my shed would NEVER survive the winter, due to the effects of weather, especially wind and snow.  

That was ten years ago, and it has never moved, shifted or failed in any way.  I seriously took the direction of wind and potential (although rare) heavy snowfall and put a steep slope on that shed roof, so that it faced the wind/weather side on the lower side, and then extended the roof another two feet on the low side so that it stops about 4 feet off the ground.  I then put in mesh/hardware cloth on the wall from the underside of the roof, down 18 inches to allow ventilation and did the same at the front at the top of the wall, under the roof so that wind "could" pass through if needed.  It is situated 20ft away from the 6 ft metal perimeter fence which helps break the wind; but I also used hurricane ties and metal roofing to ensure that it would be sturdy and last.

I admit to having just a wee bit of pleasure, whenever I spot my shed, as I imagine how it must irk my neighbor every time he is in his yard, looking at my still standing shed...and wondering if and when his predictions will come through!  As a female, I took his statement of impending doom to be sexist and a rude comment on my building abilities.  Ha on him!
 
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When I was little, we moved to what I considered hell on earth...Wichita KS.  

Everyone there had the equivalent of a large septic tank buried on site with a set of those old heavy steel basement access doors to get down into the "tank".

The city had an old air raid siren and when that thing went off there was a tornado coming you headed for your underground shelter, no questions asked.

No one sensible stayed above ground. Tornadoes were a regular thing and everyone had seen the damage possible.

Fast forward to life as a Floridian and hurricane Andrew.

They knew that thing was coming and was going to be a pretty bad one.

"Pretty bad" was an incredible understatement. That thing came in with a wall of huge tornadoes in front of it and NOTHING remained standing in its way. Didn't matter what it was built from or how.

Had me thinking back to Kansas and how that underground was probably the best bet.

On other things mentioned in this thread:

The old Italian gardeners in Connecticut used to chop the roots on one side of their fig trees they had brought over from Italy, bend them over, and bury the top of the tree for the winter. Come spring they would dig them out and set them back upright. They did just fine that way.

Hurricanes here (north central FL) rarely do much damage inland but do tear up the coast. There are some old houses in Cedar Key (east coast) that have made it through some terrible storms. Experts were curious about that, and when they looked into it their conclusion was that the hand drawn blacksmith type nails they were assembled with had enough flex and give to allow the structure to adapt to some very rough weather.

We do have small tornados here inland FL. Small, but still capable of some big damage.  If the sky turns green on a stormy day or you hear something that sounds like a freight train, it's time to run.

A lot of FL houses built in the 50s and 60s had a thick steel room fastened to the slab in the middle of the house as a tornado/hurricane shelter. I don't think even that would have made it through something like hurricane Andrew.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Richard Henry wrote:

When I bought this old house, it had a large closet framed in but not finished in one corner of the main-floor room that I use as an office/living room.  We got that finished off as a storm-shelter space, following directions from a couple of websites (three layers of half-inch plywood, one layer inside the closet and two on the outside walls).  Early Saturday morning we spent some time in it, as we were close to the track of one of the KY tornadoes -- it broke a window in our pastor's house a few miles away.   We don't have a basement; I'm hoping eventually to build a storm shelter/root cellar outside of the house.  But for now I'm thankful to have the closet to go in.  The first year we were here, we spent some time sitting in the stairwell during a tornado warning; that night, someone's barn a mile or so away was hit by a tornado.  The closet is not only probably safer, but definitely more comfortable, and I'm able to keep emergency supplies inside of it.

The house is old (built in the 1930's-1940's) and probably sturdier than most modern wood-framed houses, as this is built out of rough-cut lumber, and fastened together with American-made nails rather than the cheap Chinese junk nails that are about all you can find in the stores now.  But I'm still really thankful to have the storm closet.

Among the things that are going in the closet will be my rechargeable tools, including the electric chainsaw.  That's because one of the biggest dangers is getting stuck inside your shelter after the building is destroyed.  I'll also have some hand tools in there.  



I did not see any identification of which corner of the home this closet occupies.  Most cyclic storms in the northern hemisphere spin counter-clockwise, they also run from southwest to northeast.  Since tornadoes generally have a forward speed up up to 60 mph, the strongest winds will be in the northeast quadrant of the storm.  Your shelter is best placed in the northwest corner to allow it to see slower wind speeds while still having most of the structure as a shield.  In addition, I did not see any reinforcement for the ceiling of the shelter.  Really good practice is to make such a shelter as strong as possible and hopefully independent of the rest of the framing to reduce telegraphed stress.  A reinforced box is stronger than one with just stronger sides.

Remember that an outside shelter requires exposing the family.  Many tornadoes do not provide notice beyond the sound of an incoming freight train.  Consider a reinforced transit area from home to shelter, much safer.  One hill billy hack I once saw was a heavy concrete culvert set upright just under the bedroom window.  When the occupant heard the freight train, he jumped out the window just before the home headed for Oz.  He did not.

If you have room, it is a good idea to include some water and a small porta-potty.  If a tornado comes knocking, someone inside the shelter will likely need the potty.  Of course, appropriately sized diapers also provide in a pinch.

As noted in a post above, please remember that roof framing in an older home may have experienced heat weakening.  Very good idea to have strength checked by an expert - if you happen to have ice or snow loads, that check should look for cracks from winter damage.  I had a home where snow off an upper roof cracked the roof joists on a lower section.  I jacked the system back into place and glued & screwed heavy plywood reinforcements to each side of the cracked members.  Please enjoy your home, but never get complacent.  Nature has ways of pointing out vulnerabilities.



Definitely some things to think about there.

The reinforced closet is on an interior corner (the house -- the main house, not counting the enclosed porches or the added-on bathroom) is square, and divided into four square rooms except for my daughter's bedroom, which has the stairwell taken out of one side of it.  So, the closet is in the northeast room of the main part of the house.  It's against the south wall of that room, up against the stairwell.  We did not reinforce the ceiling -- should have thought of that.  But I'll have some help here in a few days to do some other things, and I'll see if we can add that to the list.  (I already have more on the list than we can possibly get done!)  The room the closet is in has an enclosed porch on the north side of it.  And the added-on bathroom is to the east of the location of the closet and the stairwell.  

There is access, temporarily, to the underside of part of the roof on each side of the attic (holes were made while replacing all the wiring), so we can try to do an inspection of the roof.  I must say, that whoever put a BLACK metal roof on a house in a southern state was an idiot -- that seems like it would greatly increase the chances of damage to the roof framing from excess heat.

House-Floor-Plan-January-2021.PNG
Floor Plan of my house -- up is west.
Floor Plan of my house -- up is west.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:
 b) only camp or have settlements based on landforms that protected them from such storms (there are permies here that have identified that they've bought land that hasn't had a direct hit tornado in 70 years - they were identifying protective landforms)



At least one of those people was me :D
I think this is the site I used (may be wrong, it was years ago and it doesn't look familiar, but everyplace has updated web pages)  An overview of the modern tornado record, 1950 through present (maps)
And a picture I found when looking for that site shows every track for years  Tornado Tracks it expands to huge so I'm not linking the graphic here, only the page.
When you look at that, see the black spots? I bought in one of them. Definitely avoided the brightest areas.

If you look at the maps, and then look at a contour map, you can start seeing the patterns of where they are most likely to go. Think of wind flow like water flow, it will break around a high point, run easy and fast down the low flat smooth spots, slow down and get weird when it hits obstructions like trees. It's an interesting thing to learn!

And yes, tornadoes have a mind of their own, and what I look at isn't foolproof. But it cuts down the likelihood of a bad tornado hitting me.

Straight line winds here come from a different direction, and we have more issues with them.
 
pollinator
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Our neighborhood was hit by a tornado last year.  It knocked down many old, precious trees. However very little damage to the building which are mainly brick structures from the early 1900s.

Missed our house by one block, not sure how our 110-year-old wood-frame house would have held up to a direct hit.

I take there sirens seriously and bring the whole family down to the basement.
 
Tom Worley
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I like the tornado maps, and I think there's a couple things to bear in mind when interpreting them.

They're based on histsoric data. In a changing world, what's happened over the last 70 years may not encapsulate what will happen over the next 70 years.

A lot of the data is low resolution. A tornado may only be 100 yards wide.  If it travels 30, 50, or 100+ miles, it can be tough to quantify the individual topographic factors which may make a difference.  If a tornado's path is 30 miles and your property is at Mile 26, a lot of factors affecting path and severity have already been decided once the storm reaches you.  It's winds in the Sahara that start hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and we may need to consider a scale of dozens of miles when we think about tornadoes.  

Some of the data is dated.  We didn't get good at tracking tornadoes via radar until after 2000 or so.  A lot of the data collected before then is based on estimates and assumptions.  

Some of those estimates are biased.   You can look at a map and think tornadoes are less likely in rugged areas- but maybe there's just fewer people in rugged areas around to report tornadoes.  When it comes to land valuation, woodlands are typically assessed as lower value than farm structures and crop fields.  Evaluators may draw a straightline path between one destroyed structure and the next, without taking into account whatever curves and splits a tornado makes in between.  If a storm took out a rowcrop field and a woodlot, they may weigh the field more, since the assessed damage will be higher.  

In the case of the property I talk about above, the actual tornado path deviates as much as a quarter mile from the straight-line track that has been mapped.  You can easily fit a 20 acre plot within the difference.  

If I were concerned about tornadoes, and I wanted to protect myself from future climate uncertainty, maybe I'd think about those tracks having a 10 mile buffer on either side.  
 
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I live in tornado alley. I have seen a lot of storms. Back in 2011 a EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, MO (for more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Joplin_tornado). That storm developed over my area of Kansas. A few years later a weaker tornado hit a town to the east of where I live. Tornadoes and high winds are a part of life living in this area.

Back on 11 July 2020 a bad storm did hit my town. Two inch hail and strong winds did damage to my home. I had roof and siding damage, in the end my home insurance was very good to me. I may write more about this in a different thread at a later time.

My view on prepping and dealing with tornados and high winds.

1. Having a go bag at the ready. I keep my go bag in to my bed and have a plan to get important information in less than a minute.

2. Since the tornadoes in Kentucky and dealing with the like hood of more bad weather. I have started reading up on Mike Oehler's designs and Wofati ideas. An underground home is a good idea in my area.

3. Never say "It can not happen here" or "I do not need to worry about that". Saying this is a good way to make it happen.

4. Do not get stressed out by the weather. Being prepared and having a plan helps to focus time and energy.
 
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I'm in Oz, and although we don't see too many tornados here... I remember a time about 30 years ago when we were out camping and got caught in a storm.  At that stage my partner and I had one of those little dome tents with the bendy poles, we set it up and I opened one of the windows so it didn't get too hot.  The hosts of our camping party had one of those old square style Canvas camping tents, there were about a dozen of us in the group.  We got hit by a storm that included gale force winds, some hail and rain to follow and as everyone was running around trying to gather/put away camp chairs etc there was about 6 of us inside the canvas tent leaning against the poles to keep the damn thing upright.  I remember catching glimpses outside of the flapping canvas door of our poor little dome tent... in gusts it would flatten to the ground then spring back up again - I was so sure it was going to be cactus after the storm... and then I remembered I had a window open so everything inside, our clothes etc would all be soaked too - A great start to camping party weekend.  Anyhoo, the storm passed quickly, we straightened up our friends tent which did not fare too well, and went to check out our little dome tent.... it was intact... it was still in one piece... and it was dry as a bone inside!

Thinking more of the design in this scenario.. Domes do appear to have better aerodynamics, with wind being able to slide over/around, as opposed to hitting a brick wall front on... The open window was on the opposite side of the storm face, so that probably helped release any internal pressure, and with the bendy poles allowed it to move,mould around as needed but pop back into place once the force was over.  From that day on, I swore by dome tents, and  I guess when you look at the teeny/tiny hiking tents that hikers take into snow blizzards etc it probably makes sense...

So how do we apply this strategy in a larger form.. or do they only work when there is less material involved?  I notice with the bigger dome tents, the larger span of poles do have a tendancy to break when under force, moreso than the smaller version.  I have only just started studying different types of housing from Shipping containers to tents and lots of little builds inbetween for my own purposes, on hilly, rocky terrain - but first we need to sort formal access to our block (as it is landlocked), and then need to establish a viable water source (only has a seasonal creek that runs through the middle of 2 steep, rocky, treed hills across 1100 acres, but has a dam at the very top of the hill along a flat ridge.  I am assuming if I choose to build along the ridges I am going to be facing some interesting weather events, or maybe trying to find a space to clear on one of the Northern faces so we are protected from the harsh Southerlies?  So much to learn, but scouring these sites and reading peoples comments are most helpful and often entertaining!

Sorry I could not offer in the form of Tornado help... 🌪
Staff note (Paul Fookes) :

Thank you for your first post Kay. Good information/ discussion.  I look forward to catching up on the Australasian Forum: https://permies.com/f/51/australasia ; Good luck for the build.
Cheers

 
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My grandpa had polio and he was a civil engineer.

He could walk with leg braces and crutches and drive a car.

But at home after work he used a wheekchair.

So he built his house with steel reinforced concrete walls.

In the center. Concrete blocks on the perimeter. He had to adhere to a budget after all.

In the center hall the roof could blow off. There was no way at the time to make a tornado proof roof.

But there is another factor.

He bought lns and built his house on non-tornado land.

Generally speaking tornados come to Tulsa UP I-44 from the West then cross the river at jenks and bixby.

They don't spin up here. They dissipate when they do head this way.

So What I RECOMMEND is this:

1) Three little pigs. don't put trailer parks in MOORE.

Or in Prue or in Mannford.

If you must:

2)Bury an underground shelter in every trailer lot/slip, add a bellows and hatch so you can jump in there and close the door before the "house blows off."


from inside the mobile home not run across the yard to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGKUc-equnY

3) If your community gets devastated by hurricanes or tornadoes, when you get the insurance/FEMA check build it three little pigs.

We can build shit than can endure a hurricane or a tornado.



 
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Currently my only two living options are a large shed and a 20' trailer. It is scary when the big winds start blowing and there are tornado warnings in the region! I do plan on a root cellar for storage and shelter but that's a next summer project so hopefully I can do it.

My neighbor's house is 600' away, but feels really unrealistic to be heading over there at 1am in the middle of severe weather and expect to just be let in... so I've just been hoping for the best luck. The last storm was stressful and sad as I watched a weatherman talk about how other fellow Kentuckian's town was likely just obliterated by what he was seeing on the weather instruments. I'm more up north where tornadoes aren't as common but it does happen every few years.

Once I get started on the shelter I'll try to post up some pics because that's what I was hoping to find some ideas here about it.  I'm thinking almost completely underground with the entry facing NE. Some pea gravel and drain tile around the edges like you'd drain around the foundation of a house, then just concrete block walls with a dirt floor ideally if the water stays out, but some type of gravel if not. The roof is where I guess there could be some interesting options?? Big ol' mound of Earth without caving in, sounds nice :)
 
Dave Bross
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Thanks for the Bill Hicks clip!  

I'm a huge fan and I hadn't seen that one.

Having driven a school bus in trailer park country...this is so true.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Cole Tyler wrote:Currently my only two living options are a large shed and a 20' trailer. It is scary when the big winds start blowing and there are tornado warnings in the region! I do plan on a root cellar for storage and shelter but that's a next summer project so hopefully I can do it.

My neighbor's house is 600' away, but feels really unrealistic to be heading over there at 1am in the middle of severe weather and expect to just be let in... so I've just been hoping for the best luck. The last storm was stressful and sad as I watched a weatherman talk about how other fellow Kentuckian's town was likely just obliterated by what he was seeing on the weather instruments. I'm more up north where tornadoes aren't as common but it does happen every few years.

Once I get started on the shelter I'll try to post up some pics because that's what I was hoping to find some ideas here about it.  I'm thinking almost completely underground with the entry facing NE. Some pea gravel and drain tile around the edges like you'd drain around the foundation of a house, then just concrete block walls with a dirt floor ideally if the water stays out, but some type of gravel if not. The roof is where I guess there could be some interesting options?? Big ol' mound of Earth without caving in, sounds nice :)



I feel for you and hope that you will call your neighbor and make him/her aware of your situation. Have their phone handy so if the worst happens, you could call them and reach a haven against bad weather.
Indeed, I'm as welcoming as the next person, but at 1am, I might not open my house in the dark unless I knew of your situation. The time to reach out is now. It is easier to make small talk about your plight before you really need help
God bless.
 
Tom Worley
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T Blankinship wrote: Back on 11 July 2020 a bad storm did hit my town. Two inch hail and strong winds did damage to my home. I had roof and siding damage, in the end my home insurance was very good to me. I may write more about this in a different thread at a later time.  



Insurance is probably the least sexy discussion in permaculture and homesteading- but man, does it make a difference.  Our haybarn that was destroyed back in October wound up covered under homeowner's insurance, along with 1000 feet of fencing.  When you look at recovering from tornadoes or other large/severe storms, insurance may let homeowners start from first or second base.
 
Anne Miller
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Cole Tyler wrote:Currently my only two living options are a large shed and a 20' trailer. It is scary when the big winds start blowing and there are tornado warnings in the region!



My neighbor always headed into town when there were tornado warnings to the cafeteria of the local hospital.  If you are not comfortable doing that there is usually a big box store to visit.

If nothing else head for the nearest overpass. A lady I worked with daughter-in-law had been in a tornado previously and that is where she would go.  Take some blankets and get into a ditch under the overpass.  I have seen newcast of overpasses with people stand or sitting under them.

 
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