Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Basements, Closets, and Twisters, Oh My!

It's been a relatively exciting couple of weeks while my computer's been down. First we had some spring storms wreak havoc in the DFW area. Spring is tornado season in North Texas, and although I've lived here for almost 10 years, I still can't get used to the tornado sirens. I can't imagine anything more scary than your house being torn off it's foundation while you and your kids cower in your closet. My Texas-born friends are pretty blase about--Oh yeah, we just jump in the bathtub with our pillows and blankets. It's like camping. Um, sure. Except while camping you don't run the risk of being skewered with a tree or flung 100 yards across a field while you're sleeping.

There's two classifications for storms with possible tornado development--1) tornado watch, where there's a possibility for formation of a tornado and 2) tornado warning, where a tornado has been spotted and those in the area had better take cover and PRAY. And where does one take cover when a tornado is bearing down on them? In Texas, it's an interior closet, or a bath tub. There are no basements here. Why, do you ask? Well, when we looked into it while we were building our house we got a number of answers--the soil is not right for it, the water table is too high, the limestone under the topsoil is too hard,etc. The real reason we found is that hardly anyone knows how to do it correctly and therefore it is prohibitively expensive. I suppose one could build an above ground bunker out of concrete, but again that is very pricey. I suppose most people figure it's cheaper to just take your chances that your house won't get hit and if it does, the insurance will cover the cost to rebuild. Okaaay. At least the weather forecasters and tornado spotters are on the ball.

So anyway, last Thursday at 3:30 a.m. we were all jerked out of a sound sleep by the tornado sirens down the street. I ran upstairs and scooped up my older son, ran down the stairs, and picked up my youngest, and we all huddled in the closet as my husband fiddled with the T.V. and radio so we find out what was going on. Fortunately, none of the homes in our neighborhood suffered any major damage, although throughout the area many trees were uprooted, and power lines knocked out due to straight-line winds of 50-70 mph. A couple of small tornadoes were later confirmed to have touched down and damaged some homes, but fortunately no one was killed (one man was seriously injured however).

I learned few good lessons about emergency preparedness:

1) Remain calm. It does no good if you and your children are shaking and screaming for dear life. Plus, if nothing happens you will feel pretty silly and your kids may want to sleep in your bed with you every night until they leave for college. Praying helps a lot here.

2) Keep everything you may need in an emergency in a handy place e.g. inside the closet where you "take cover." If a tornado is bearing down on your house, it's not a good idea to run out of your "safe room" because you forgot the toilet paper that you might need if the toilets get blown away.

3) If you happen to have a 72-hour kit (as all "good" Mormons do), it's helpful to pack the emergency radio and batteries on top so you don't have to dig through all the diapers, cans of chili, and granola bars.

Overall, we made it through the storms unscathed. We got the kids back to sleep and managed to catch a few winks ourselves before getting up for work and preschool. I feel horrible for people that actually experience a tornado. It's no fun feeling you are at the mercy of the weather or wondering why this scary thing happened to you. I'll take hurricanes any day over tornadoes. At least with hurricanes you have some warning and can pile the kids in the car and drive inland. Yay, we're going camping!


Kirsten said...

I'm glad to hear you all are safe! seriously that would be the stuff of my nightmares.

Randy said...

Chances of ever suffering significant harm or property damage from a tornado are low. It's not something to fear...even when the sirens sound off. It's more psychological than real. I'm more concerned about the wacko drivers on the road.

dr. fly killa said...

Maybe the statistical chances of significant harm are smaller compared to car accidents, but 81 people died last year as a result of tornadoes. One guy in Alvarado, TX lost his arm as a result of a tornado hitting his home just a week or two ago. In 1999 near OKC, 38 people were killed and hundreds were injured during an F5 tornado outbreak. I don't lie awake every night worrying about tornadoes, but I do feel a bit anxious when the sirens go off.

I'm thankful that we have wonderful technology that can predict and warn people about tornadoes. I think it's important to be prepared for emergencies, but if an F3 or greater tornado ever hit our area, it'd be sayonara to our house.

Kirsten said...

still, I feel pretty safe here in AZ... no tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes. all we have to worry about is heatstroke, skin cancer, and someone bombing the nuclear power plant. I guess no place is 100% safe. but the first two I have good control over, and the power plant is on the other side of town.

Randy said...

When extended drought finally hits the metro deserts in AZ, those cities and all the infrastructure will become nearly worthless, as they will dry up and become deserted ghost towns. Having grown up in Phoenix, I've followed the water supply issue most of my life, and I could not now be persuaded to move back there.

Water tables there are becoming lower and more polluted every year. The Colorado River has not run to the Gulf of Mexico for many years. When water demand in the desert cities like Phoenix, Vegas, Tucson and even San Diego reaches its carrying capacity, and with a extended drought to push it over the edge, I don't want to imagine the civil unrest that will occur in the aftermath because there is not enough water.

Yet people continue to move to Arizona from New Jersey who have no idea what it means to move to or live in a desert.

As Boone Pickens has pointed out, the next real commodity crisis is not going to be oil/'s going to be water.

Arizona better hopes some one figures out how to convert sea water to potable water and start building a water line from the Gulf of California. In the meantime, I'll take Texas any day, the most vibrant, diverse, healthy economy in the world.