Tornado Shelters at the schools aren't practical.

This article was obviously written by someone thats never lived in a tornado region. Tornado Watches are issued frequently every spring and can last for hours or even most of the day. Life has to go on. You can’t just dismiss school or send 400 kids into a bunker for six hours.

Tornado Warnings are even more intense. But even then you have to listen for the sirens and monitor the emergency radio. That tells you when the tornado is approaching your area. At best you got 15 minutes to take cover. You can’t magically move 400 to 500 kids into some bunker in that time. The best you can do is move them into the hallways and away from windows. That’s just a few feet from each classroom.

What happened yesterday is a very rare event. Thankfully most tornadoes aren’t that powerful. A school is much better constructed than any wood frame house or trailer.

Those weather alert radioes help a lot. I have two at home and one in the office at work.

One practical solution in new construction would be to reinforce the central hallway. Make it more storm resistant. It’s easy to move the kids from each class into the hall.

But a underground bunker out in the schoolyard? You’ll never move that many kids safely and quickly after the sirens go off.

Underground isn’t always better. Those 7 kids drowned in the school basement.

But won’t someone think of the children!


This kind of thing is the exact same flawed risk assessment and misunderstanding of statistics that causes idiotic knee-jerk reactions to any number of other things, including gun control.

Ultimately, a couple hundred people killed by a tornado doesn’t meant that there’s ANYTHING wrong or that anything needs fixing; it was literally the wrong place at the wrong time. The number of people killed by tornadoes is vanishingly small in the grand scheme of things these days.

I agree with everything the OP posted.

Sometimes shit happens. you can’t protect against everything. This was a tornado 2 miles wide. That’s… crazy. Planning for a tornado like that is like reinforcing your roof to protect from meteors. It’s just so statistically unlikely, it isn’t a good use of funds.

Although, if climate change starts makes these super tornadoes a regular occurrence, I could change my tune.

For new construction, there’s no reason why several areas of the building couldn’t be reinforced, to make it even faster to get all the kids into shelter. (And frankly, we should be doing this with big box stores and shopping malls as well). With an EF 5 tornado all bets are off, but for less intense storms those reenforced areas could provide ample protection. And if done during the construction process, the cost shouldn’t be too onerous.

Considering it was an E-5 the schools safety drills worked amazingly well. They got the kids into the hallways and bathrooms. Those kids survived with some injuries.

I’m not sure what happened in that basement. How it flooded and killed those 7 kids. Have they said yet? Was it a broken water pipe? Rain shouldn’t flood a basement. Maybe a foot of water. You could drown if you were trapped under debris.

I had three feet of water in my basement from a rain storm.

Tornadoes have been sweeping across Tornado Alley for eons. They tear up towns, kill people, and still, everyone who rebuilds does so with standard technology and design.

These people lost a house to a hurricane, and said “Fuck that noise. Next house we build will be better.” And it was.

I can’t imagine why anyone would build a building with a likelihood of getting hit by a tornado or two in the next, oh, 30 or 40 years, and not incorporate SOME feature to allow occupants some measure of protection. You don’t have to build an entire school out of Impenetrable Fortress Material, but you can certainly build the main hallway or core area to withstand an F-5 at a small premium.

When my kids got assigned a trailer classroom outside the main building, I pitched a fit.
Fuck your county budget. Build a building, or put my kid inside.

I really don’t understand why at least new construction isn’t required to have even minimal storm protection, especially if it’s open to the public. The cost/benefit analysis doesn’t mean much to those who lose a loved one.

Backyard shelters used to be pretty common in the rural South. Often they were just holes in the ground with a wood frame and wood door.

Not sure why they weren’t included in suburban homes. There are places that sell pre-made concrete shelters. Backhoe digs a hole in the backyard and they just set it into the ground. Fill in the dirt around it. Hang the steel doors and now you have a comfortable shelter.

I bet they sell a lot more of them after these super storms.

Those often served as root cellars and places to store canned goods as much as storm shelters. Once you give up gardening and putting by a significant percentage of your family’s diet, it’s easy to forget that other, minor use and decide you no longer need an unsightly hole in the ground.

Cost. The shelters you describe typically cost a few thousand dollars to buy and install, and to a lot of people that seems like a lot of money to spend on something they will probably never need to use. And aesthetics. Outdoor storm shelters are ugly.

There was a big spike in sales after Joplin. I’m sure this will promote another big spike. Somehow after you see what and EF5 storm can do, the idea of spending several thousand dollars to build a specially-reinforced hole in the ground doesn’t seem like such a silly idea after all…

The sirens don’t help here. They’re pretty useless. They’re sounded countywide when even a couple of square miles in the corner are clipped by a warning. I was once 18 miles from the warning boundary and my siren still blared. There weren’t even any sirens near that storm.

I believe the policy of the schools here is to shelter in hallways and interior rooms whenever there’s a warning.

Cite? I didn’t hear that

The death of the 7 kids was in nearly every headline earlier today.

Maybe I am missing something, but where does that say anything about a basement?

I have a relative that runs college dorms. As part of that, she oversees building new ones. She’s done it all over the country. We were talking about her current project one day (years ago) and she mentioned that she didn’t make it a fall out shelter (either Tornado or Hurricane, I don’t remember if this was in Florida or tornado alley). When I asked her why, she said that it was perfectly safe, but she had no interest in the entire city descending on the school every time the sirens went off.
So that’s another thing to think about if you make a true tornado shelter at a school. It’s not just trying to shuffle a few hundred students down there, it’s the few hundred city residents that are going to show up also.

But I like what others were saying. Make the center hallways strong enough and I’ll add that if you make the classroom doors solid wood and make the small window there shatter proof then you can shut those doors and probably be relatively safe from anything that’s not going to level the entire school.

It’s right there in the first sentence of the second quote aceplace57 posted.

ahh, thanks. How horrible.

Bullshit, and it doesn’t require magic. I’d bet that the entire building could be evacuated in under 10 minutes, and is regularly done during fire drills. Now all you need to do during a tornado is change the place of assembly from a rally point outside (for a fire drill) to tornado shelters that are strategically placed inside the building. NFPA 101 has already done most of the heavy lifting with standards for occupancy limits, means of egress, etc… This could and should be done within the building codes community and implemented in every new school facility built in tornado alley.

Yes. And it shows one of the problems of using basements (as opposed to specially-designed tornado shelters) for refuge during a storm. Basements work well for tornadoes that are EF3 or weaker (which is most of them, fortunately). But if you’re unlucky enough to be in your basement when your house is hit by an EF4, your house falls on you. That doesn’t happen with an EF5 - instead, your neighbor’s house falls on you. Without a reinforced concrete ceiling, the basement becomes an open pit when the building above it is completely destroyed, and debris can fall or be blown onto the people trying to shelter in it.

Basements are definitely better than being above grade, but they’re no panacea. :frowning:

True enough - a tornado hit Utica, IL in 2004 and people were killed when a sandstone brick tavern crumbled under the tornado and fell on top of those taking shelter in the basement. That was only an F3 but might have been made worse by the age of the building.