Weather Watch: Shelter From The Storm

Weather Watch

Watching Dorothy run back to Auntie Em’s and Uncle Henry’s, with Toto in tow, trying to beat the debris-filled twister gets me every time. In my estimation, it was at least an EF3, although those standards were not in place back then. Through the sound of tornado winds and everyone scurrying about, if you listen closely you can hear the wise words of Uncle Henry ring out, “Come on, everybody in the storm shelter!” That was sound advice, and having a storm shelter in Kansas, a state in the middle of tornado alley, was good planning on the part of the Gale family. (Yes, in the 1939 movie that’s the name on the mailbox!)

Tornado Alley is an area of the U.S. heart-land known for its tornado activity. Although tornado alley boundaries can be debated, most meteorologists agree that Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska pose the greatest risk for tornadoes. Arkansas sits right on the edge of this area and is also part of a newly created tornado-prone zone called Dixie Alley.

Tornado Alley’s climate and location are ideally suited to create supercell thunderstorms, which commonly spawn violent tornadoes. While Arkansas is not included in the official tornado alley area, we have certainly seen our share of these powerful storms and with severe weather season approaching, I think it’s a good time to go over modern-day storm shelter options.

Back in the day, root cellars were common and often doubled as storm shelters. Root cellars were built underground and used to store fruits, vegetables and other foods for the winter. They kept temperatures above freezing in the winter and cool in the summer. Farmers soon realized that they were also a safe place to be when the weather got rough. Fortunately, thanks to research and innovative technology we now have a wide array of designs from which to choose. Food is no longer the priority.

There are several new companies out there that are “reinventing” the old storm cellar approach, and they are busier than ever. Shelters can now be installed in garage floors underneath your parking spot, under the floors of living areas with the door covered by rugs or furniture or even under a kitchen island. Actually, if you’re building a new home, your choices are unlimited. Above ground safe rooms can also be easily integrated into construction of a new home.

Also, by adding the cost of the shelter into your loan, your safe room will only add a small amount to your monthly house payment. A few dollars a month for peace of mind.

David and Brandon Shaw, a father and son team from Saline County, own Shelter Solutions. They say the increase in popularity in shelters comes from the weather threat itself. Brandon Shaw says “The popularity of storm shelters has increased because of the affordability of them and the in-depth coverage of tornadoes and their effects.”

Shaw goes on to say that the most common types are steel above ground safe rooms, in-garage floor shelters and outdoor in-ground concrete or steel cellars. Each type has several different sizes and each style has its own unique benefits. “Not one style fits every application so we make sure to have nearly every style and model available to fit customers’ needs no matter their situation.”

We have come a long way from the days of the root cellar. Many families are choosing to add well designed storm shelters to their current home or are incorporating them into their new home plans. It’s affordable and is the absolute best way to ensure your family’s safety should an EF3, or worse, come your way.