Tornado Shelter

watching the storms from afar

Well, everyone, my grad school classes are almost done, which is good because I don’t have stamina like I used to! Late night studying (it’s impossible to get work done while the boys are awake) is taking its toll on me, especially since all the material we’re covering is very interesting and makes my brain pump on all cylinders.

But let’s talk about tornadoes for a moment.

Tornados are terrifying. And awesome. And terrifying.

They used to be mostly awesome, and only slightly terrifying the last time we lived in TX. We even lived in a more tornado-prone suburb back then (and even had a couple F-0s touch down a few miles away from us one time).

But now that I have kids? The Momma Bear inside does NOT like tornados, I’ll tell you that much.

We’ve had a week or two of rough weather (technically, Dallas is right at the bottom of tornado alley) where I’ve been glued to the weather channels trying to make heads or tails of it all. I’ve been trying to get my “TX feet” back underneath me, reminding myself of the difference between tornado “watch” and “warning”, trying to remember that the weather people always act like they’re on Red Bull as they jump around in front of the screen saying scary things.

One of the things people who don’t live in a tornado-prone areas of the U.S. need to realize is that the odds of getting hit by a tornado are very rare. People don’t drop everything they’re doing every time there’s a thunder storm rolling through just because they can’t, otherwise nothing would ever get done. It’s rained here 12 of the last 14 days, and 9 of those days were thunder storms. That’s called “normal” for TX spring.

And it’s not even necessary to drop everything and run for cover, every time the weather “could” be right for tornados, because there are thousands of knowledgable people who are glued to those storms, watching for any sort of rotation in the upper hemispheres that could later produce something that would touch down. They are able to pinpoint those hot spots down to a few miles radius, and warn people ahead of time. I kid you not– it sounds something like this: “We see rotating clouds that could produce a tornado, it will cross 5th and Main St. at 7:32pm, Laurel and Main St. at 7:34pm,” etc.

And “the natives” aren’t stupid. They know which types of weather to be on the lookout for. And when the time comes, they all have a plan.

Part of our confusion this time around in TX is figuring out what our plan is now that we have a family and a house. Our house is built on a pier and beam foundation, and we don’t even have a window-less room or closet to huddle up in when the winds get strong. Heck, we don’t even have a garage to protect our car from hail! (we’re working on that one).

Most of the scary weather happens about 1.5 hours away from Dallas to the southwest.

Take, for example, this monster tornado that roared through a very rural town a few counties away from Dallas last week:

tornado southwest of Dallas


Or how about the softball/grapefruit hail this storm sent raining down?

softball hail

We didn’t get much action up here in Dallas, not even hail. It did, however, rain around 12 inches in just a few days! People don’t realize that Dallas gets the same amount of yearly rain as both Seattle AND Portland. We just get our rain in short clumps, where it’s dumped from the sky, deluge-style (but, on the reverse, we gets lots of sunshine in between!).

And yet…we just had a guy come this evening to give us a quote for putting a storm shelter in our backyard. If we were on a slab foundation, they sell really nifty “panic” rooms that are also tornado proof, and you almost don’t even know that they’re in your house, they blend in so well. But with a pier and beam, our only option is to pour a slab outdoors or go underground.

They’re kinda expensive, like buying a used car expensive. And although FEMA is now handing out money grants for folks to get them installed, Dallas is not on the list of counties eligible. But the company that came and gave us our quote does have 100% financing, and the monthly payment equals out to less than our car insurance.

And, when you think about it, a tornado shelter really is a type of insurance– you don’t want to have to use it, but you have peace of mind knowing it’s there, just steps away from your back door. Tornados are like a really crappy lottery– probably not ever going to happen, but if it does and you’re not prepared, you’re going to wish you were.

This is the model we were looking at having installed. It can fit 7-10 people, along with some supplies. It could also double as a root cellar, something I’ve always wanted! The technician today said that he’s been in these things during the hot TX sun, and it only gets to 60 degrees in there.

tornado shelter 2

tornado shelter 3



If we really wanted to go overboard, we could make it look like this! 😉

cool storm shelter landscaping


We’ll keep you all updated as we make our decision!

Related posts


More About the Tornados

Live From the Storm!

Definition of a Blessing
  • Seana Turner

    Wow – this is totally outside of my familiarity zone. I have been watching the crazy weather reports from TX and surrounding areas. When my sister lived in Plano, I remember she had hail damage to her fence and it was always a concern with the cars. Hard to know if this is a justifiable expense, but I’m sure you will make a good decision:)