cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Shelter from the storm????

I am copying this post from one I made over on the women's board.  Please give me the benefit of guidance, from the male perspective and your experience. 

 

One of our WIA friends mentioned a storm shelter in a recent post on FB.  We seem to have been getting lots more tornados here in NC than past years.  I have been studying the subject of storm shelters since last April, when so many people were killed not very far from here. 

 

Back home in VA, Mike and I had basements in the houses we both grew up in, and never had to retreat to them once.  We can't go in-ground here, because our seasonal high water table is one foot. Not a good thing,  if you need to go to ground to get out of high winds. 

 

My family tends to consider me a worrywart; but,  I feel responsible for the safety of us, our daughter and her family, and our hired man's family of five.   I am the one who gets fire extinguishers installed everywhere, puts in the smoke alarm batteries, and keeps first aid kits stocked. 

 

Our daughter and I had a several-hours long road trip to VA today.  I brought up the subject of the shelter,. and she expressed a sincere desire for me to pursue it.  She mentioned the exact date of the storms that scared us silly last April. 

 

Since then, too, she and SIL saw a funnel cloud while out working the horses, which Mike also heard...and then he found a string of huge oaks knocked down in the woods in that direction.  So, we've been lucky so far, but know families who lost entire households of relatives in a matter of moments. 

 

I have gotten crosseyed looking at safe shelters online, and have to rule out underground options.  I know many of you live at more traditional "tornado alley" addresses.  It is a considerable purchase, but not a ponderous one. 

 

Can anyone recommend a company or specific design?  I am looking at a reinforced conrete shelter with room for 14 people...there are ten of us now, one a smaller child and two infants.  We figured this would allow for a few of the pets to shelter in, too.  

 

We are both in agreement that this is a smart move...one of those "better to have it and never need it, than need it and not have it" things.  I am sure I will have to work to persuade Mike. 

 

Can anyone weigh in on storm shelters,  and give me some guidance? TIA....

0 Kudos
13 Replies
Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

Daughter and son in law have steel one installed in the corner of their garage which they access through a door in the baby's bedroom. It is bolted to the concrete floor and made of heavy guage steel. It is not very large but will hold about 6 people.

 

There is a tendency for folks that have them to use them for much needed storage space and that kind of defeats the purpose unless you have time to empty it before it is needed.

 

We didn't put one in our new home and we don't have a basement either. I seldom went to the basement in Iowa for storm purposes except when I had children in my care. We had a couple of close calls with tornados but neither did damage to the dwelling. It sure got me out of the hog business in a hurry.

 

I would think an above ground unit made of reinforced concrete would do the trick. Pour a cement slab and use those styrofoam forms and pour them full of concrete with plenty of rebar. Shouldn't cost too much and be pretty darn safe.

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Contributor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

i can't tell you what would be best but one covered by earth would get my vote or a basement in the house. a pile of straw was by a bridge and the the tornado drove the straw through the steel so the county had to replace it.

good luck with whatever you decide. hay

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Veteran Contributor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

I agree, a concrete shelter would be your best bet.  i worked for a concrete company right out of high school and delivered concrete to a farm that was building a new house, they had a 10' square concrete room in one corner of the house since they had no basement.  

 

Are you thinking of building this outside as a seperate building?   The idea of covering it with dirt is pretty good, any hills that you could build a concrete room into?  

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

Kraft-t, I guess it is partly having the tiny grandson that is driving my mind in this direction, more than it used to go.  He is sleeping in his tiny crib right next to my chair right now...if a storm warning were to pop up on the TV, I wouldn't know which way to turn to protect him. 

 

I understand your point about stashing a spot full of stuff...I've got plenty of room elsewhere for that, so do not think it would be a problem.  Maybe, the older I get, the better I am at segregating functions, even if that means duplicating a few tools, furnishings, or  systems. 

 

I am thinking of siting this shelter where we can easily tie into an electric line that is supplied by the emergency genset for the house and office.  The shelter's ventilation has to be passive, since power can be lost;. but, that's not to say you couldn't use electricity as long as you have it. 

 

The size I am looking at is sufficient for a few days in situations like a hurricane - most we've ever needed I would say is about 15 hours in high winds out of one of those.   (That makes it too big to put into an existing home, but with three families involved, I think smaller is just too small, adn the price isn't that much less.)  Tornados are what truly frighten me. 

 

I imagine that your family has found a lot of peace of mind out of having their shelter.  I had a really close call with one in 1993, and it taught me respect for the destructive forces of wind. 

 

Thanks for your input.  

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: Just a wild thought

How about building a theatre room out of concrete with an entrance from the house. Built hell for strong and furnished within for comfort. You could have Tv, computer phones and comfortable furniture for tv viewing. A lot of folks build home theater rooms on the second story for entertainment value. There is nothing to say you can't build it on the ground floor and use it all the time instead of just during a storm. Of course, price is always a factor but something that could be utilized even in times of safety would be more valuable. Just think of it as a super basement built at ground level that is both safe and utlitarian.

 

Windowless for sure but nothing keeps you from installing a camera system like they use in stores Put cameras outside and see whats going on in the world while you are safely nestled in your protective haven with your little one.

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

I am not actually thinking of "building" it, since the time and materials will equal or exceed what I'd have to pay for a turnkey unti, delivered and installed onsite by the manufacturer's staff.  Witht eh bought unit, i have teh assuracne of FEMA certification...we woudl be guesssing and hoping it woud hold up if we built it ourselves. 

 

I know we are capable, but I am past the point of having to DIY everything anymore.  If we had a hillside to berm into, or anywhere to go in-ground, I would certainly do so.  This place is simply too flat and too low/wet. 

 

The unit I am pricing and getting a contract on, since I posted the first time, is heavily reinforced with rebar, and has 12 tons of concrete and rebar in its skin and foundation. I think that many tons of concrete and steel, engineered to hold up to 250 mph wind stress, ought to suffice.  Our maximum load on FEMA's maps is 200 mph.  Our kids back home have a basement in one of the houses on that farm to go into...we are just too exposed to the elements, if things get ugly here. 

 

I had originally considered doing a retrofit in the old concrete block store building I bought last year, but getting the reinforcing work into that area isn't worth the trouble, and it would as Kraft-t says, fill up with other stuff.  We are enjoying that building as a family gym and workshop every day...shelter for emergency use needs to be situated without competing uses infringing upon its lifesaving function. 

 

I've spent five to six times as much on that old building and its site...and have a tad more to do there.  It is meeting  a host of family needs every day, but it can't meet this one cost-effectively.   

 

There is probably as much money tied up in motorcycle chrome here, as this shelter will cost, delivered and set up.  In  fact, it is only costing about $1000  more than my wood cookstove, which was sort of a whimsical purchase when we made it.  It costs a fraction of the wood boiler system we put in a few years ago, and also only a minor portion of the kitchen remodel we just completed. 

 

When I put it all into perspective, I am sorry I didn't know about these shelter units sooner.  We should have had one a long time ago. 

 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Just a wild thought

Neat idea...I will consider it.  Right now, I am more leaning towards putting it near my garden spot, which has running water, and is close enough to trench in electricity.  It is very flat, and since I wanted plenty of sunlight or growing, has no trees overhanging it (falling trees are yet another storm-related threat). 

 

I was planning to build a "green-roofed' shed out there anyway this spring.  If I go this location, it would be nice to have the grill and grill sink unit under the shed, adjacent to the storm shelter.  With water and power, the outdoor cooking area would be extra nice, and better than the current backdoor stoop where Mike grills now, which is really too close to the house.  (Two birds with one stone, which is what you were thinking, too...we just picked a different second bird!)

 

I am thinking that communications will be simpler with handcranked charging units for cell phones, which are inexpensively bought as added features in weatherband radio units now.  Anything that recharges with a mini-USB or USB connection is eligible, which includes all of our mobile devices. 

 

My smartphone (DROID) is my backup WiFi to the satellite Internet anyway, and it worked well last summer in Irene, when Hughesnet was MIA in heavy rainfall, clouds and winds.  We are totally satellite dependent for TV reception, so I'd default to radio, if I couldn't keep a connection sufficient to support the iPad.  At some point, you have to disconnect and hunker down anyway. 

 

We picked up an antique port-a-pot from Mike's mother's old house yesterday, which could be curtained off with a loop shower rod, which we also have on hand.  I am thinking that five-gallon buckets with those "bucket seat" tops could serve as bug-and mouse-proof storage for food, diapers and paper products, and double as seating. 

 

I would want to set up to handle the needs of all ten of us for 24 hours.  I think we could roll and use those suction storage bags for some bedding or a coupe of sleeping bags for the children, and I have got a twin size inflatable camp mattress with a battery powered air pump.  There's a second queensize one on a porch bed,  that we could grab for the shelter, too. 

 

Starting to shape up in my mind now.  Thanks for all the suggestions. 

 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

Thanks, hay,  The only tornado I ever heard of was in the "Wizard of OZ", intil 1993.  Was in one in a Walmart store, in Colonial Heights. VA, that summer. 

 

Totally lucky I had bumped into a friend's husband, and was exchanging greetings with him, when it hit.  Otherwise, I would have been in the checkout line, where people died, as the funnel plowed into the front of the store, and collapsed the concrete block wall onto the checkstands. 

 

We are getting more storms in more months of the year now, and loss of life is rising proportionally in the region.  It's the one risk we have not at all addressed, probably becaseu we come from elsewhere, and it's calmer in general there. 

 

It's time, and my mind is made up.    I;ve got a contract in the mail, coming my way.  Once it's executed, it will be a matter of weeks to get it built and here, then 3-4 hours to set and anchor it.  Lots of considerations as to siting to figure out in between. 

 

You guys have given me a good amount of food for that thought, and any more will be greatly appreciated.  I think it is safest to assume that the infrastructure around  us will be decimated, and work from that premise, than to hope for support from outside the family. 

 

Thanks again. 

0 Kudos
Highlighted
Veteran Advisor

Re: Shelter from the storm????

As someone who lives in Tornado Alley, I have a couple thoughts.

Tornadoes can 'lift' amazing weights.  If your shelter has flat sides, berm up some dirt against it.  It may be rated to 250MPH as-is, but tornadoes that have bursts of speed above that are not uncommon, and 300+MPH not unheard of.  Anything that prevents the wind from pushing straight against a flat wall is a great help.  Just a berm of dirt partway up the sides, will 'deflect' some wind up and over, while at the same time anchoring it solidly.

If at all possible, connect it to the house in some way.  I don't know about over there, but around here, a storm can blow up quickly, and by the time you know it is severe enough to spawn a tornado, it may already be hailing, with a high wind, along with rain and poor visibility.  Not the kind of conditions you want to haul around a grandchild in.  Now, if your storms come up slowly, this may not be a big issue.

For a radio, one that runs off of cordless drill batteries is what we use.  I have the radio in the basement already, and charge my batteries at the top of the stairs.  If a storm is on the way, I haul down a couple batteries, and can run the radio at least 24 hours.  Some brands of the newer radios even have a 'USB' charging port built in, for charging cell phones and the like.  I always keep at least one battery topped off, and don't have to worry about charging the radio, that way. I also have a flashlight that uses the same battery, in case of power failure.   Of course, out here on the plains, a couple hours is all you really need, so this is more than enough for my needs.

Comfort - space.  We keep canned foods in our storm cellar, along with an opener, and some bottled water, we rotate to the frige every so often.  Eating a can of fruit keeps the kids minds off the storm, sometimes.  We don't need a lot of comfort, as any storms that spawn a tornado are short lived out here, so all we really have is a bench to sit down on.

Alternative exit - If a tree falls against the main doorway, is there another way out?  Just something to think about. 


While I have never lost a friend or loved one in a tornado, I know some people personally who have lost their houses to them, and it ain't pretty.  A good time to have replacement value on your house is before the storm hits.  If you have a lot of valuables inside, walk through your house, and videotape them,  Make two copies, keep one, and give the other to a family member, or trusted friend, or a safety deposit box.  That way, you can prove to your insurance carrier what was inside the house.  Without proof, chances are, you will get the 'standard' coverage for contents.  If you have someting of particular value, such as a painting, antiques, or wine collection, make a note of its value on your insurance, to be sure of coverage. 
Lastly, pray that the shelter you buy, is the most money you ever spent on something you never use!

0 Kudos