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How Can We Better Prepare For Tornadoes?

After Oklahoma’s giant twister, does Tornado Alley need to change the way it builds and lives in the age of superstorms?

A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

When the tornado warnings came to Moore, Okla. this week, people rushed to shelter where and how they could.  Teachers and kids into school bathrooms and closets.  A coach had his high school team put on their football helmets.  Bank employees ran into the vault.

And then, the epic destruction. So much just blown away.

Could we build and prepare better for the threat in Tornado Alley?  Or are tornadoes so random that it doesn’t add up?

Up next On Point: The re-engineering question — Oklahoma’s giant twister and whether Tornado Alley needs to change the way it builds.

– Tom Ashbrook


Heide Brandes, Oklahoma City journalist reporting on Moore’s tornadoes for the Wall Street Journal. (@HeideWrite)

Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Jeff Barber, certified architect and a housing and environmental design specialist at the University of Missouri Extension. He was a consultant to Joplin, Mo. following the city’s 2011 tornado and advised on tornado-proofing infrastructure and community preparedness. He also worked for the first FEMA Community Storm Shelter in Missouri, following the 2003 Pierce City tornadoes.

Michael Fitzgerald, independent journalist who has recently wrote on national disaster preparedness, including a look at Moore, Okla. — “Money Spent Beforehand Blunts The Impact Of Disasters” and “Tornado Veterans Balance Preparedness, Practicality.” (@riparian)

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR: Live Updates

The Oklahoman: Rolling Coverage

CNN: What You Need To Know About Tornadoes

The Atlantic: Tornadoes In America: The Oklahoma Disaster In Context — “The simple answer is that warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico gets sandwiched between war, dry continental air and cold, dry air from drifting down from the Rockies. The combination creates the perfect conditions for thunderstorms to form…As these air masses collide, they can generate a type of particularly dangerous thunderstorm called a “supercell.” They are characterized by their very strong, rotating updrafts accompanied by strong downdrafts. Tornadoes tend to occur at the interface between these two air movements.”

TIME: For Republicans, Oklahoma Tornado Revives Questions About Disaster Relief — “Congressional Republicans on Tuesday were thrust into the tricky position of balancing their desire to help the reeling residents of Moore, Okla., with their recent zeal for deficit reduction. It may seem “crass,” as Coburn’s spokesman put it, to focus on political calculations as rescue crews pick through the wreckage of a tragic storm that left at least 24 dead. But politics can hamper the speed and success of the recovery efforts after tragedies like this.”

The New York Times: A Survival Plan For America’s Tornado Danger Zone – “The horror confronting residents and emergency workers probing the tornado wreckage in Oklahoma is unimaginable for those of use elsewhere. Collapsed schools, disintegrated homes, crushed cars and more. The main focus should be on aid. But it’s worth beginning a conversation about ways to live safer in such hazard zones given that this storm season is just getting under way and that big regions of America’s tornado hot zone have deep vulnerability resulting from runaway growth and a human tendency to discount threats that have a low probability but disastrous potential. (The same issues are driving exposure to danger in hurricane zones.)”

Tweets From During The Show

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  • notafeminista

    Would it be too much to ask to have like an actual emergency management person or severe weather storms expert be on the list?  The Atlantic and the NYT?  Really?

    • Jasoturner

      Hey, they’ve got a LEED certified architect!  How much more expertise do you need?

      • JobExperience

         Poorly built houses made from strand board and sheetrock are more dangerous than a tent in a tornado. Codes produce profitable uniformity, not safety.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          There was some coverage on NPR today about pre-code and post-code buildings in the area, and how certain structures were grandfathered in.

          I don’t remember if that was about public buildings, residences, industrial or retail/office.

    • anamaria23

      Good Morning, Sunshine.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Please don’t embarrass yourself with assertions like Barbara Boxer (D-Calif. – Chair of Senate Environment & Public Works Committee) did earlier Tuesday by attempting to tie the tragic tornado to climate change.  It is amazing that Senator Boxer, given her important role, is ignorant of the science..  She then used this tragedy to plug her carbon tax proposal.  According to NOAA data, the number of F3 and stronger tornadoes have decreased since the 1950′s.


    • Gregg Smith

      In 1974 there were 148 tornadoes over 2 days, 30 of which were F4 or F5. Global cooling was blamed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

        After his comment some time back that these rich American kids are spoiled by having Gameboys, the one thing I think I can say with some surety is that Gramps Smith knows well what was happening in 1974! 

        • jefe68

          He’s correct though. I’m not sure about the cooling comment.

          People need to sue more critical thinking skills here and not tie every extreme weather event to global warming. It’s bad science.

          • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

            Do I have this right? You think he’s correct but not sure he’s correct? (At least I was sure he was correct.) In any event, I agree that we need to sue more critical thinking skills (and proofreading skills too)! As for what is good or bad science, I’ll stick with the consensus of scientists on that one.

          • jefe68

            He’s correct about 1974 being the worst year for EF 4 and 5 tornadoes. 

            The cooling comment is not one I’m sure about.

            I’m basing all my comments on what I’ve been reading in the last few days on this, one of the sources is today’s guest. Harold Brooks.

            The scientific consensus is there is not enough data, yet, to tie global warming to tornadoes and severe thunder storms. 

            I’m not making this up.
            It’s what climate scientist are writing on this particular subject. 

            Because historical tornado data is not considered very reliable or consistent, scientists have focused especially closely on how a warming climate is altering the balance of ingredients that go into producing a tornado.

            –Andrew Freedman


          • JobExperience

             He’s not here to teach.

          • Gregg Smith

            I am correct about 148 tornadoes 30 of which were F4 or F5. I think that’s what Jeffe meant. 


            I’m right about them being blamed on global cooling too. 


          • Gregg Smith

            Credit where credit is due. Thanks Jeffe.

    • jefe68

      I have to say I agree with you. There is not enough data, yet, to tie tornadoes and severe thunder storms with climate change.

      Interesting to note, the worst year for EF4 and EF5 tornadoes was 1974.Good article about this very subject:http://www.climatecentral.org/news/making-sense-of-the-moore-tornado-in-a-climate-context-16021

    • JobExperience

      No model can predict what greater atmospheric heat energy will bring us, any more than they can predict exactly what hardships fracking  will impose. All we can say for sure is that the costs will be high in either case. I’m surprised that those who fear their offspring being taxed over deficits do not recognize these greater dangers. Money is imaginary but water and wind are real.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

         Are trying to tie this tornado tragedy to fracking?

        Where is your science?  Even the IPCC disagrees with you.

        “There is low confidence in observed trends in small spatial-scale
        phenomena such as tornadoes” and on no knowledge on future development
        of tornadoes: “There is low confidence in projections of small-scale
        phenomena such as tornadoes because competing physical processes may
        affect future trends and because climate models do not simulate such
        phenomena.” -IPCC


        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          not tornadoes, the fracking causes earthquakes besides the other issues with it

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        we actually know much about the dangers of fracking and what adding energy to the atmosphere will do. can you send me all of your imaginary us dollars please? i like to play pretend

      • jefe68

        Actually they can to some extent.
        Do you know the difference between weather and climate?

        Tornadoes are local weather events where as hurricanes from out at sea and they are subject to global patterns. 

        There are some models that show a decrease in tornadoes due to the warming of the atmosphere.
        This is partly because tornadoes need cold air to form.  

  • Unterthurn

    The know-how and technology exist to build. The ‘cost’ is the barrier. Middle-class cannot pay the price to build dwellings that withstand the conditions they live in. Perhaps people need to build smaller homes they can afford.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    It is time for us to put any partisanship we covet away and solve these type problems. We, that is, We The People, need to support any methods that will end these horrors. I am confident that our Founding Fathers would agree.

    • Gregg Smith

      We can’t end tornadoes, we’re mere mortals.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

        I believe the horror Mr. James recommends ending is not the tornado itself, but the carnage that results from being ill-prepared to survive the tornado.

        • jefe68

          You can’t really build a structure that can withstand a EF4 or 5 tornado unless you build something akin to a bomb shelter.
          It’s not the same as a hurricane even though they both have strong winds and extreme weather conditions. 

          From what I understand a lot of Oklahoma city has water table issues which makes shelters and basements hard to build and costly. 

        • Gregg Smith

          It could be that I inferred the wrong intent but he mentioned partisanship. If you are correct Mr. James is saying helping people prepare better is a partisan matter which is untrue. And actually they were fairly well prepared an had 16 minutes warning which is a relative lifetime in situations like this. As tragic as it is, it’s amazing the death toll is so low. Maybe he will clarify.

      • JobExperience

        “Scotty, we can use the warp drive to generate anti-tornadoes and fire them into the vortex, ”
        James Tiberius Kirk.

        • Gregg Smith

          Good point, I also remember Superman flying around the earth counter to it’s rotation with enough force to reverse it’s rotation and turn back time. I didn’t think of that either, perhaps my comment was knee-jerk.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        the chinese have departments of weather control

  • Shag_Wevera

    Solutions for a weather event that cannot be predicted or prevented, and strikes quickly and randomly with winds over 200 miles per hour?  This topic is the pinnacle of hubris and arrogance.

    Build shelters in every school?  Government assistance for shelters in homes?  Half the population will squeal like stuck pigs if their precious tax dollars are used for this.  Shelter builders will price gouge, and mankind will be mankind.

    There is next to nothing that can be done.  These events will occasionally occur and cause a tragedy.  Offer prayers and condolences, write a check to the red cross, and move along to the next news cycle event.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      Yes, indeed, I agree with you. No storm shelters for buildings in tornado-prone regions (ignore the fact that a hundred years ago every home, farm, and schoolhouse had a storm shelter in this part of the country; they are clearly not needed now). Just move on. Send a check to the Red Cross and forget it. Just pray to the imaginary being in the sky! I recommend this prayer: “Oh Great and Powerful One who sent this massive tornado to kill these people, we beseech you to be with them in their time of need because we sure as Hell aren’t going to use any government money to help build storm shelters for them!”

      • Shag_Wevera

        Tell me how these shelters would ever be funded in today’s political climate.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          a bipartisan group would fly this right through because the construction will be a big boon to unions and big corporations and industry in general that owns our politicians

  • donniethebrasco

    Force everyone to get rid of their SUVs and make them drive Electric Vehicles or Hybrids (but not Escalade Hybrids).

    If every car gets over 40 MPG, then we will delay global warming by about 10 years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      how much carbon will be emitted in the process of making 300,000 new electric cars? how much oil will need to be consumed to build and transport them?

  • jefe68

    By not cutting the NWS budget. That would be a good place to start. They are being gutted by the fiscal hawks on both sides of the isle. Seems to me this is one government agency that serves an important function.

    • notafeminista

      NPR didn’t even use them.

      • jefe68

        And yet they saved lives this week in Oklahoma.
        You do know that, right?

        What’s your point?

        • JobExperience

          Be glad Rick Santorum did not succeed in privatizing NOAA and the NWS. Imagine paying a cable rate for emergency alerts.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            It’s not just about TV: I get all my online weather info at “weather dot gov”; hope you do also.

            It’s like that private company website that uses the NOAA info, but without the popup ads.

        • Gregg Smith

          I did not see anyone griping about FEMA or waiting on the government. I saw citizens banding together, loving each other and doing the heavy lifting.

          • jefe68

            Which is a natural thing to do.
            So your saying we don’t need the NWS or FEMA, is that the meaning behind this comment?

          • Gregg Smith


  • jefe68

    I’m glad that Harold Brooks is on.
    I was just reading an article that featured him.

  • JobExperience

    The Owners of the Tea Party suggest if you see one coming spin real fast counterclockwise and synchronize with the destruction. Even if you can’t spin fast you’ll get too drunk to be injured.
    In the aftermath gather any  useful articles to sell at a yard sale to raise money to buy an assault weapon and ammo. Once you get that “equalizer” you can begin collecting for your relief charity. (My 501 exemption blowed away in the storm, yer Honor.)

    • Gregg Smith

      The owners of the Tea Party?! That’s you and me.

    • harverdphd

       “Hyper-partisanship makes people stupid.”  – MadMarkTheCodeWarrior  – 05/02/13

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christa-Hillhouse/100000210347944 Christa Hillhouse

    I am originally from Oklahoma and still have family in Edmond (which was hit Sunday, just north of OKC). Weather is a way of life there. More cellars would be great, but so would better schools in general. One thing I will say is that it forces you to live “in the moment” perhaps. A storm cell will change your whole day, and maybe your life. It brings a community closer together in many ways. There is a humbleness to the people in Oklahoma that is beautiful, although I do think the good in that is often overshadowed by religious zealots. But to endure hardship is the way of the land .. and nothing could be more human. I do wish my mom had a storm cellar. But it’s her decision how she chooses to spend her money.

  • Jasoturner

    Fatalistic, perhaps, but it strikes me that we cannot immunize ourselves from tragic natural events.  We are little creatures on a big planet, and sometimes things beyond our control happen.  Sure, building shelters would help, but there is no foolproof solution.

    • creaker

      They had more time than usual to respond to this impending storm – 17 minutes. If you happened to be listening.

      The issue with no shelter rooms in the schools – how do you make shelter rooms big enough for an entire school population? Or do the lucky ones just lock the rest out?

      There is only so much you can do in any situation – we drive, we die – we swim, we die – we live in OK, we die.

      • TheDailyBuzzherd

        17 minutes matters to those who can get shelter, but will never matter when a house or school is just another bone to chew by a tornado.

  • wauch

    We can start by restructuring our insurance system to make it extremely expensive to live in Tornado Alley, coastal Gulf of Mexico, landslide susceptible areas of the west coast, etc.
    We can’t keep rebuilding in the path of environmental might!

  • Ken Lee

    The only things we can do are keep improving on our structural designs when rebuilding after disasters and focus on improving weather alerts and community preparedness. 

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    They can add “hurricane clips” to the rafters and sills but that will only lower damage to structures on the fringe of a tornado.

    I don’t understand the concept of “hurricane clips” on sills. Where I live, they bolt the sills to the foundations and we get neither hurricanes nor tornadoes and only the occasional small earthquake.

    The only way to build tornado safe structures in Tornado Alley is to build underground.

    • Yar

      A cable from the foundation to the roof every four feet holds the house together.  A bolt in the sole plate may not do very much.  Once the roof is lifted off, the walls have no support and the whole structure folds.  I have an octagonal house.  I don’t know how it would hold up in a severe storm but the shorter walls give more strength and the wind can wrap around the house.  Like blowing a candle out around a light bulb.  We can build better structures.  The habitat for Humanity homes held up better in Hurricane Andrew, lots of people hammering nails makes a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    While visiting a friend Sunday evening- 24 hours before the Oklahoma twister-  I watched the film “Take Shelter” (2011 w/Michael Shannon & Jessica Chastain). It portrays a man whom others judge to be insane due to his obsession with building a tornado shelter in the backyard. He even loses his job over it.  

    The end (spoiler alert) proves him right. Watch the film.

  • syedm

    I’m from Pakistan but grew up in okc. In Pakistan they build houses out steel and solid concrete with 1 story deep foundation. Also, they have wind storms their too but you feel nothing. Maybe we need to start building concrete houses with deep foundations.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Good point: Sixteen minutes warning. What would that have meant twenty, sixty, a hundred years ago?

    I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t go out for a rec-ride on my motorcycle without first looking at the Doppler for 100 miles around.

    The advances afforded us by the geeks are not to be underappreciated.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      I wonder if people were more weather “sensitive” 100 years ago.

      First, a much higher percentage of the population lived on farms and knowing the weather was key.

      Second, there was no Weather Channel to watch, no NOAA on the web with radar images, no hazardous weather alerts on the radio.

      Without these things you have only the hair on the back of your neck, your ears to feel pressure changes and an eye to the horizon to let you know the weather is “suspect”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        and their little dogs too

  • Yar

    There is something in between doing nothing and trying to make a tornado proof society.  First, put storm related damage in perspective, water (floods, storm surges, sea level rise) kills many more people than wind and does much more property damage.  As storms go, tornadoes are fairly rare events.
    The best spent money in environmental preparedness would be to move out of flood plains. Next get rid of mobile homes which not on a permanent foundation.  Storm damage effects the poor disproportionately because they often live in the most dangerous areas and may not have access to storm shelters.  The best way to prepare for a storm is to pay workers a living wage.  

    • harverdphd

       Total commie retread bullcrap

      • Yar

        Not worth a reply

  • Cmoore465

    At the beginning of the show you mention Auntie Emm running to the shelter to protect herself from a tornado. The Conversation is how to build a structure within schools to withstand this force. Instead of building structures inside why not build down (a basement). The safest place to be in in a basement. If the wind and flying debris would blow over. 

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      The conversation, as stated at the top of the page, is:

      “After Oklahoma’s giant twister, does Tornado Alley need to change the way it builds and lives in the age of superstorms?”

  • ToyYoda

    The statistics seem suspect.  The chance of getting hit is 1/4000 years for the individual or for the town?

    But what are the chances of any one town getting hit? And with towns and cities growing, I think the numbers are misleading?  Please clarify.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    The impact of tornadoes this powerful are heartbreaking, but how many people are willing or able to afford to live underground? The sole safe structure would be a subterranean one and the only alternative is relocation. For most that is just as difficult and painful as the word itself sounds.

  • TheDailyBuzzherd

    Again, look to nature for the answer.

    While impractical, the prairie dog got it right: Go underground.

  • debhulbh

    Your expert doesn’t believe in his own statistics (?) he says the odds are 1 in 4,000 years that you would get hit by a tornado at any given point in Oklahoma, yet he has a reinforced shelter in his own ,home (a new construction in that he says an $80,000 addition to his existing home – $2,000 added for the concrete reinforced structure)So which is it?? odds or
    He is missing the point, Why does your expert have a reinforced shelter yet he says odds are slim of being hit, why does he say one thing yet do another…..? I don’t understand his logic…or why he is saying  that. I understand he is saying shelter is for peace of mind and that great. But then he is saying you are not going to get hit only 1 in 4000 years. Which is it – build a shelter or – your not going to get hit? ..it does’t add up????
    He also dismisses climate warming as a cause and had the statistics to back that up (he says) is that something else he says one thing (why?) yet knows another? I mean really?
    Hate to use cliche but actions speak louder than words. No?

  • MarkVII88

    A school shooting in CT where kids are killed on-purpose causes people to go crazy about gun control and background checks that will not effect the vast majority of Americans. And these efforts ultimately go nowhere.  Now, a tornado in OK kills kids in a school, completely an “Act of God”, and I’m basically positive that everyone who builds or re-builds in Moore, OK will now be mandated to build a shelter at thousands of dollars of personal expense.  Where is the sense here???

    • Phillip Hanberry

      Where is the sense in your analogy?  One of them is a force of nature that cannot (so far) be controlled or stopped by humans.  The other is psychotic behavior that can be controlled or stopped.  The one that we cannot control obviously needs to to have some sort of alternate plan. 

      • MarkVII88

         And yet, per your comment, for the psychotic behavior that can be controlled or stopped, there was a lack of will to actually do anything.  That’s the sense in my analogy.  We’re willing to mandate measures to protect against something we can’t control yet we’re unwilling to protect against something we can control.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          “Nothing we’re going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting”
          - Joe Biden ,january 2013

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      what is the sense of having building codes in a place called tornado alley that dont account for tornadoes? houses in cali cost extra to be earthquake resistant and houses in fla cost extra to be hurricane resistant. i am sure the govt will provide grants and such than will mean we all pay for your shelters

  • debhulbh

    He is missing the point, Why does your expert have a reinforced shelter yet he says odds are slim of being hit, why does he say one thing yet do another…..? I don’t understand his logic…or why he is saying  that. I understand he is saying shelter is for peace of mind and that great. But then he is saying you are not going to get hit only 1 in 4000 years. Which is it – build a shelter or – your not going to get hit? ..it does’t add up????
    He also dismisses climate warming as a cause and had the statistics to back that up (he says) is that something else he says one thing (why?) yet knows another? I mean really?
    Hate to use cliche but actions speak louder than words. No?

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    I think a 200 mile/hr wind is going to hit harder than a tractor trailer. Then there is the issue of the 200 mile/hr wind throwing the tractor trailer into the side of the shelter.

  • SpringHill44

    My thoughts go out to the people who lost their loved ones or their homes in this disaster.

    As someone who has always lived in New England, I have to ask — Do other parts of the country NOT build basements when constructing homes? If not, why not? I’m wondering if it’s a regional thing or due to newer vs older construction? (Our house is over 100 years old; my parents’ house was built in the 1940s; both have cement basements.)

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      A lot of houses in warm areas are built on slabs. No need to go below frost level to keep the house from heaving when there is no frost. Cheaper than building a basement.

      But if you DO have to go below frost level, especially in places where that means AT LEAST 4′ down, might as well get some usable space at the same time, no?

      • SpringHill44

         Thanks for the explanation!

  • Phillip Hanberry

    Harold should really rethink an above ground shelter.  Debris can tear it down easily.  Not to mention, the only downside he mentioned to having a shelter underground is IF he were in a wheelchair at some point in his life.  Why not build a ramp as opposed to stairs? 

  • Gary Silberberg

    In Coastal Connecticut, where I live, FEMA recently updated its flood zone maps.  If your home is in a flood zone, you now have to raise your home to be above the flood plain in order to get federal flood insurance.  Private insurance basically will not cover damage from flooding.

    Perhaps FEMA should create a similar map and rules in Tornado Alley and require homes to have a tornado shelter and require homeowners to get federal tornado insurance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jo.king.370 Jo King

    Any (informed) speculation on a possible link between massive storms and Haarp? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Frequency_Active_Auroral_Research_Program

    • Phillip Hanberry

      Really?….Way to be disrespectful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

  • brian copeland

    It seems like buildings in and around tornado alley should be designed similar to cars with their crumble zones. As an architect that grew up in Missouri, that makes the most sense to me to have a sturdy “safe room” that will withstand the rest of the building being destroyed around it.

  • madnomad554

    I am former rescue squad and was a trained storm spotter, trained through the National Weather Service. Tornadoes are no joke and economics is no excuse for not having a hardened storm shelter, living in tornado alley.

    It is annoying to here someone say they can’t afford a storm shelter. You decided a two or three car garage was important enough to park your car inside, but didn’t or won’t grab a shovel and dig a hole in the ground.

    Even the ground hog and the fox have it figured out.

    Build a smaller home, so as to be able to afford that reinforced storm shelter. Are you not willing to sacrifice a two car garage for a safe underground haven, when the finger of god is stirring the pot?

  • Phillip Hanberry

    Next thing well see is people complaining about having to buy fire exstinguishers if they live on an active volcano  ;)

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Underground does not necessarily mean stairs.  Cut a slope around the building and to the door. Sort of opposite the concept of a handicap access ramp.

    And underground doesn’t necessarily mean “all below the original plane (or plain if you like ;) )”. Dig down 6′, build the shelter and put the dirt on top in a “shallow” dome shape the wind and debris will blow over.

  • Randall Jussaume

    Why can’t they build schools with a fortified central area that can be closed off and become a de facto shelter e.g. a windowless section of hallway that can be closed with fortified doors at both ends? 

  • debhulbh

    I like the idea of the earth shelter, why was the response brought back to monetary perspective? if an earth shelter can keep a family safe why then would there not be incentives across Oklahoma to build these structures or for home owners to make modifications to have such a room/structure attached to their home. This caller had a very practical point to make and it was glossed over. This is very clever point, makes perfectly good sense, could potentially save lives. Old folks did it back then, tried, proven and true. Definitely deserving of further discussion….

    • jefe68

      That’s not practical in view of the suburban community such as Moore. Also, how do you develop a decent building coed for a structure made out of earth?

      • brian copeland

        The issue would be more about egress. It has and can be done. The major thing is that Oklahoma and suburban developments in general are rather flat topographically. There would be a lot of cost grading a site to shelter the building. What about having a house like Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in NYC. You would just have an elegent garage above and then descend into the ground.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       And a modern earth home is a WHOLE lot nicer than a dugout or pit home from 150 years ago.

  • Trond33

    I agree that the goal should be zero fatalities in a tornado.  Yet, I am always struck by how low the fatalities actually are.  News reports said 20,000 people were in the path of the Oklahoma tornado and it had the force of the first nuclear bomb dropped on Japan in WWII.  Looking at all the damage, it is amazing that the fatalities are not higher.  It is a scenario that has played out time and again, a tornado wipes a trailer park off the map, yet low casualty numbers.  

    Tornadoes are terrifying, but with all their horror, the odds are still high, from the “Book of Odds – Tornadoes” webpage:
    “Despite the toll of yesterday’s storm, it is very unlikely that a person will be killed by a tornado in a year—those odds are 1 in 4,513,000. It is more likely a person will die from a fall off a cliff—1 in 4,101,000—or will be diagnosed with leprosy—1 in 2,930,000.”

  • madnomad554

    One long underground ventilated hall way beneath a school and most of it wouldn’t even need to be fortified.

    If long tern nuclear shelters can be constructed, then how hard or expensive can it be for one long under ground hall way? 

    • Trond33

      You have a thought there, its just a digging a ditch as the first step in constructing the building.  The problem of course is the soil of “tornado alley.”  Heavily clay that makes upkeep on anything below ground a longterm project.  The clay traps moisture in the underground structure.  

      • madnomad554

        Fiberglass, carbon fiber, massive poly tubes or even 7×7 poly squares. They spray truck beds to keep away moisture. And they have that super collider underground.

        Aren’t there millions of those shipping containers decommissioned just sitting around? Some people are building houses out of those. Spray the outside of them with truck bed liner and bury them under the schools.

        A couple of solar powered fans could keep air moving through them to help with some of the year round moisture.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          truck bed painted shiping container would propably be pretty tornado resistant just secured to the ground soildly

          • madnomad554

             Probably so…though they could get stifling hot on the inside being above ground.

            Honestly, those shipping containers wouldn’t need to be under the school. A long trench under the school property, with the entrance from inside the school. Any school could be retro fitted in such a manner. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            tornadoes are usually fairly short so you would not need to be in there that long.
            yup and they are pretty cheap. lets start a shipping container shelter business for schools and get rich from the inflated govt contracts. we can use fear as a marketing tool

          • jefe68

            The tornado had winds over 200 hundred miles an hour and was over 8 times or more the strength of the A bomb that struck Hiroshima in terms of the amount of destructive force it unleashed. I doubt that would work.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            jefe it sounds like you read that somewhere.  its an apples an oranges comparason. the a bomb releases its energy all at once the tornado takes a while. 200 mph is pretty fast but the containers are designed for highway speeds and high seas, not to mention they are literally bullet proof so i think they will be fine especially if reinforced with the bed liner. 

          • jefe68

            No, it’s not an apples and oranges comparison. Tornadoes  unleash an enormous amount of energy and this one was an EF5.
            Did you not listen to the show? It was stated that one would need a shelter or walls 6 inches thick to withstand a direct hit from a tornado of that magnitude.


          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            no i did not listen to the show. its stupid to compare a tornado and a nuclear weapon. one releases its energy in one second the other in an hour. six inches of what jefe? six inches of feathers? supersonic rounds wont penetrate a shipping container

          • jefe68

            Take a good look a this photo. Do you see those steel beams all twisted and bent like they were made of soft plastic. If a tornado can do that to large steel support beams it would make quick work of shipping containers. They would be death traps.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy
  • bmj789

    You should do a show about the new report from Harvard on the conflict along the Sudan-South Sudan border: http://hhi.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Sudan%20Anatomy%20of%20a%20Conflict_Signal%20(1).pdf.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      i would like to hear more about our war in yemen

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    i like this football helmet idea. cheney always has a man sized safe handy

  • Alex R

    This is why it should be an accelerated transition. There are plenty of older vehicles out there that could be recycled, and most people should be able to switch to hybrids and electrics en masse ‘today’, with the help of a carbon fee and incentive program if necessary. Then there is little to no difference between that and building more vehicles of the conventional type.

    This is a similar problem with power generation infrastructure. We should have started switching yesterday, because it doesn’t happen overnight.

  • bnewcol

    The State of OK should map out the state in a grid, and build underground shelters that are within a time frame of 10 mins for people to get to (a radius of 10 miles per shelter).  Or each city build their own, large enough to handle their population.  All schools should have one built for them, paid by the state.  Or neighbors could get together and build one for a couple blocks of people, split the cost among them all.  What is the cost of your life compared to that of a storm shelter?  

  • JoeK

    Florida’s experience following Hurricane Andrew is that stronger building codes can help. Dr. David Prevatt at the University of Florida has spent his career studying tornado winds and their impact on buildings. His research indicates that while catastrophic damage may be unavoidable in the middle of the tornado’s path, that is not the case just a short distance from the middle. You can read more about his research here — http://goo.gl/SN7ys 

  • MCNpartners

    Dear Tom & On Point,

    Thank you for asking the big questions and making us better prepared for the

    On a positive note, as you share graduation speeches this season, we would love
    for you to consider Sam Vaghar.  The 26 year old national non-profit executive
    (and Newton, MA resident) delivered the Commencement Speech at Lynn University
    in Florida this month.  Vaghar was the youngest Commencement Speaker in
    Lynn’s 50 year history and one of the youngest in the nation.   Vaghar spoke as one millennial to many others, sharing his story, our work at the Millennium Campus Network, and the power
    of community to respond to adversity (speaking to Lynn’s response after losing six community members in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and Boston’s response to last month’s attack).  
    You can watch the speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7YqVfKmyCI
    We are happy to provide any additional details/a transcript if helpful.
    With many thanks for your consideration,
    The Millennium Campus Network
    101 Huntington Avenue
    Boston, MA

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Walter-Fox/1418567331 Walter Fox

    Two years ago, there was a tornado or tornados in the St. Louis area on Good Friday of 2011. It blew out the south windows of the airport. The main one was classified as an EF4, I believe. However, There were NO fatalities. There are possibly two main reasons: There was constant monitoring of the storm on television. And most of the residences in the path of the main tornado had basements.

  • Ray in VT

    Apparently Alex Jones said that the tornado could have been some sort of government weather weapon.  Why do people listen to nut cases like that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=631311553 Chuck Sherwood

    Here is another article that folks should read.  This attitude is very much alive and well even in Moore as I heard on NPR this morning when the City Manager told the Mayor that his idea for in home storm shelters was not a good idea.  “The citizens of Moore are ‘Independent’ and don’t like to be told what to do!”


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    In high groundwater situations, I wonder about economical MOUNDS with a complimentary excavated pond/reservoir, and equally feasible arched^structures under the mound, under 5 to 10 feet of earth. You get pleasant high ground, outlook… earthquake resistance.
    If we could master this Romanesque technology and make it [happen] truly feasible -cut stone’$? or solar fired bricks and selected natural wedge-like quarry rocks?
    Such tech/design could be used world wide; even if it amounted to super cheap “rammed-earth-crete”-over form- construction (add horse hair or adobe-crete straw for cheap natural reinforcement).

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Steve Rhodes

After a summer of deadly clashes between Gaza and Israel, we talk to Jews on the left and right about the future of liberal Zionism. Some say it’s over.

Sep 18, 2014

Billionaires. We’ll look at the super super rich, and their global shaping of our world.

Sep 17, 2014
Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

A new take on the life and music of Bob Dylan, from way inside the Dylan story. “Another Side of Bob Dylan.”

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson watches from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of a preseason NFL football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

The NFL’s Adrian Peterson and the emotional debate underway about how far is too far to go when it comes to disciplining children.

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