Your Own Storm Shelter
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Dave Thurlow, Host
May 4, 1999
You've seen the pictures. Block after block of demolished homes. The tornado that hit central Oklahoma on May 3rd may have destroyed more buildings than any other twister in U.S. history. Many homes were swept completely off their foundations. Most houses had no basements, and even underground, people are sometimes killed by falling debris. Is there any way to survive such a hit? Now there is. Hi, I'm Dave Thurlow from the Mount Washington Observatory and this is The Weather Notebook.

Engineers have come up with new ways to build a storm-resistant shelter inside a new or existing house. We'll tell you how to get free plans at the end of this segment. The idea for these shelters came from duplicating foul weather inside a laboratory. Wind engineers at Texas Tech University have been replicating twister damage by using a device that flings two-by-fours against a wall at high speed. They've found that drywall can be easily punctured by tornadic debris. However, concrete usually holds up against even the strongest wind.

From that research, engineers have come up with designs for a so-called "safe room" that serves as an in-house shelter against tornado or hurricane winds. A safe room has walls that are reinforced with six or eight inches of concrete masonry. Its door is made of plywood and steel. You can add a safe room to many basements, or you can convert a bathroom or closet in the interior of your house. The walls and ceiling are attached with special fasteners. All these features help keep the safe room intact in winds up to 250 miles per hour.

Now you can find plans for a safe room by visiting our website, which is mountwashington.org. Thanks today to contributing writer Bob Henson. The Weather Notebook is underwritten by Subaru with major support provided by the National Science Foundation.

Related Links

Storm-Pruf Storm Rooms

Are You Ready for a Tornado?

May 3, 1999 Outbreak - preliminary map

Daphne Zaras' account and photos of May 3rd, 1999

May 3, 1999 Oklahoma/Kansas Tornado Outbreak - NSSL