Tornadoes, Tornado Shelters and the Why of Disasters

Mitigation is key, when time is available.

by Eric Holdeman / March 12, 2019

I had lived a relatively short life when a tornado struck Freeport, Illinois back when I was in high school. We being dumb teenagers ventured out the next morning to find huge elm trees toppled and power lines down. Of course, being teens, we had no thought for our personal safety. 

In reflecting on that, there had been many a tornado warning in my life before that storm. Sometimes we'd go to the basement in a corner and huddle there until the weather system passed by. All of which brings me to this item shared by Claire Rubin, Alabama’s deadly tornado ripped through homes — and exposed vulnerabilities.

As noted in the story, death has a way of motivating action — post-disaster, for a period of time. In the story there is one personal account about a woman, going home, procrastinating for a bit, before going to a community shelter in a church basement. Post-tornado, she mused about why some people died and she was spared.  

First to the shelter aspect. I believe the tornado was rated an F4, one below the maximum level for a tornado. Mobile homes, tied down or not, will not withstand that level of a tornado, and neither will a well-built "stick home." A tornado shelter, especially one underground is ideal. But there are concrete and steel boxes built into homes today. They could be pantry/general purpose storage for daily use and then available for safety purposes. 

However, people living in a manufactured home do so for a reason — normally the price. The tornado shelter looks more like a luxury, and wouldn't you rather spend the money on granite counter tops for the kitchen?

Then there is the age-old, and I do mean age-old, question about why disasters happen to good people. Interestingly enough, Jesus addressed the issue one time. See Tower of Siloam, which gives the background to that incident when he speaks to the question. No matter what your faith belief system is, if you have one, many are basically fatalistic about disaster. An "It is what it is mentality" until the wind starts to blow and it sounds like a freight train is headed your way.

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