A Better Plan for Next Time

For days in advance, the weather forecasters had been advising folks to be prepared for volatile weather that was to come our way nearly two weeks ago on a Saturday night. It was unusual to have the threat of strong winds, hail, and tornadoes in October, but here in Oklahoma it did not surprise me, as we had been having very warm temperatures lately. Each time I thought I might finally be finished mowing grass for the year, a little rain would come, along with a lot of sunshine, and rejuvenate the plant life back to green and tall. Even both of my gardens had sprung back into production. Bell peppers, spaghetti and acorn squash, hot peppers, and all of my herbs were producing again. In a way though, I did not care if wind or hail took out the gardens. After all, the chickens were getting some of the surplus, and I was too tired to keep up with more produce by this time of the year.

When that volatile evening arrived, I had dinner timed just right. The smoker had been working on burger patties for two hours, and I had corn on the cob ready to put on the grill while I cranked up the heat to finish grilling the burgers. As I placed the corn on the grill, I noticed storm clouds were building and could hear thunder rolling in the distance. Hopefully, I could get the grill cooled down and covered before the rain hit. Our pellet grill had been a pricey splurge, and I was quite protective about taking good care of it.

Soon the burgers and corn were ready, and I shut the grill down for cooling. Reaching the kitchen, I checked the online radar from my iPad. FD was monitoring the weather situation from his laptop in the living room. He works for a generation and transmission electric cooperative, so storms almost always have some kind of impact on his company’s system, which covers three-quarters of our state.

As we usually do, we sat down to eat dinner at our TV tables. Besides, the OU football game was on, and things were not going so well. And, knowing FD’s passion for OU football, I was sure the weather was secondary to the game. While I was thinking about whether the grill had cooled off enough to get it covered, FD was muttering about the game and pacing in front of the TV.

Oscar finds comfort with Mr. T as the storm ramps up with loud thunder and flashing lightning.

By the time we finished our burgers, the OU game had become very intense. I rushed outside to roll the grill to a more protected area and quickly cinched the cover over top. Lightning was close now and thunder boomed loudly. I was excited to see just what kind of storm this was going to be. Already the Lawton area, an hour south of here, had seen some tornado potential, and tennis ball-sized hail was reported in some areas. Now, local TV channels were interrupting programming to report on the weather. And before long, we lost our satellite signal completely. FD was upset of course… the OU ballgame was in the last minutes of play!

In June 2016 our above ground storm shelter was installed.

Watching the weather radar from my iPad, I suddenly got a text from a young friend who lives near the next town east of us. She knew we had no satellite at the time, so she alerted us that a tornado had touched down just south of town! And only seconds later, both FD’s and my cell phones blared the alert to take shelter! FD threw on his house slippers, retrieved his cell from the living room and grabbed Oscar. I grabbed my iPad which I wrapped in a towel, stuffed my cell phone in my back pocket, and hefted up Mr. T, who is just under twenty pounds. FD headed out first, as he would open the shelter door and I would follow. FD was well ahead of me, and I was trying to juggle the iPad and hold on to Mr. T. Not being able to look down to see where I was going, I faltered getting down the five steps to the ground level and fortunately caught myself! At that point, it dawned on me that we had forgotten to take the good, high-beam flashlight with us. As I made my way off the patio tiles and onto the short grassy area leading to our shelter, I stepped into water! Already the rain had poured down so hard that water was standing everywhere. As I quickly entered the door to the shelter, FD followed and put Oscar down so that he could run back to get the flashlight. Unfortunately, Oscar bolted from the shelter before FD could close the door. I don’t know if Oscar was scared and just ran blind into the rain, or if he was trying to follow FD, but FD had quite a time catching him. When he finally did, he tossed the now soaked Oscar in the shelter and slammed the door. Quickly he came back with the flashlight, but he was completely drenched.

Oddly, there was a cozy quiet to this sanctuary of safety. Through the roof vents, we could hear the wind, rain, and hail outside, but inside was dry and comfortable with plenty of room to move about. We had folding chairs and Mr. T and Oscar had a nice rug to lay on. Still getting a strong wi-fi signal from the house, I watched the weather radar on my iPad . FD watched the last of the OU football game on his cell phone via ESPN’s Gamecast, which is, to me, nothing even close to viewing the actual game. Strangely, our electronic devices created a soothing glow to the darkness of the storm shelter and, other than to light the way to the shelter, our flashlight really was not needed.

While we waited out the storm, it was good to know Mr. T was calm and stayed settled on the rug on the floor of the shelter. Perhaps being nearly blind now actually helped to keep him relaxed. Oscar, on the other hand, was scared and crammed himself next to Mr. T the entire fifteen-minute duration until the storm passed. At one point during those moments, there was a strange, quiet celebration of OU’s win and, as soon as the all clear signal was given, we loaded up and headed back to the house in the same fashion as we had ventured out to the shelter. Our feet were immersed in water for those first steps to the patio pavers, and then took careful steps up to the back porch in the dark.

We will need to extend the paver walkway from the pool to the storm shelter if we want a smooth walking surface and to keep our feet dry!

Exhilarated, from the excitement of the evening and the now cool air as the front moved through, we entered the warmth of the house and immediately discussed a better plan for next time. This was our first tornado warning alert since we had the shelter installed in June 2016. Since that time, I kept a small plastic tub in the shelter with bottles of water, snack items, a couple of old jackets, dog snacks and a water bowl. But now we realized we could make a few improvements. If weather looks to be threatening, I will have a harness on Oscar and a leash handy for easy leading to the shelter with no chance of running off. We will make sure to flip on the back porch lighting, (we generally keep that motion light off because wildlife sets it off all night long), and we will remember to take our high-beam flashlight in case we have to leave the house in another night storm. And sometime in the coming months, before the spring storms arrive, we plan to put more walkway pavers down to keep a clean and clear path to the shelter. No more soaked feet!

It is always good to have a plan. And, most of the time, I find that even the best laid-out plans can use a little tweaking! This autumn storm gave us the opportunity to see what improvements we could make so that we can be better prepared when the real volatile storms arrive next spring!

High winds took part of a hackberry tree down.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 


40 thoughts on “A Better Plan for Next Time

  1. Every time bad weather rolls in during Tornado season, I keep a pre-packed bag near the door with our battery lantern, extra batteries, and our animals’ leashes so that it’s easier to get out the door in an emergency. But we also don’t have our own shelter and need to use the neighbor’s, so I’m pretty compulsive about keeping tabs on the storms as soon as they spring up, so we can get to the shelter before we’d even need to if it looks like it’s heading that direction.

    I’m so glad y’all didn’t get it worse than you did!

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    1. I can see where you would need to be super prepared, having to go to the neighbor’s shelter. I am really glad we had the shelter placed close to the house. Our recent experience showed me that often, there is no time to spare in getting to safety. This certainly was a good opportunity to realize what we could do to improve on tornado safety!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. So glad to hear that you and hubby together with your doggie companions survived the storm front. It’s hard to imagine living somewhere where you a need a sturdy tornado shelter. Even here, we have some severe weather in Victoria’s high country but not quite the same as you. After our wet winter and warm spring, everything is growing profusely especially the grass. With the summer months not far away and with the associated threat of fires, we need to have a plan as well. As you say, it can always do with some improvements.

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    1. I always enjoy perspective from other parts of the world. While we do have wildfires here, I do not think they are near as devastating as what you have in your region. Other than plowing up soil around the perimeter of our property, keeping our grasses short, and keeping downed timber cleaned up close to the house, I don’t really know how one could prepare for a wildfire situation. What kind of evacuation plan do you have?

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      1. We only moved here full-time in January but one of the stipulations I had for where we bought was that it was not in thick bushland. Being located in cleared farming land used mainly for cattle and some sheep provides us with a buffer zone. There was a fire some years ago on the nearby mountain and surrounding hills. Like yourself we are doing the usual clearing up. People who live in the bush especially the urban fringes are much vulnerable. We are fortunate we have two dams and can pump water up to our tank to use our sprinklers that surround the house. Other things like clearing gutters to avoid ember attack and picking up leaf litter near the house. There hasn’t been any fires around here but one can never be complacent. I am in the process of updating our fire plan. We have one stuck on the back of a door complete with some useful steps such as filling the bathtub and contact numbers for local fire brigades. We are fortunate that our area is well catered for in terms of nearby brigades. If you have animals including horses there are plans available for that as well. We also prefer not to go away during summer months when the fire risk is at its greatest. Hopefully, we won’t need our plan in a hurry but one can never say never.

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        1. There certainly is a lot to consider regarding wildfires in your area! Thank you for sharing what you do to be prepared. Since we are so close to city limits, we do have the local fire department to rely on. But it’s always good to have a plan in mind just in case things go awry.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I suppose it’s strange, but I’ve always been highly fascinated with storms and crazy weather. I am not sure though, that I would enjoy being one of those storm chasers that get up close to the tornadoes, and brave the high winds and hail.

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      1. When I was young, I always wanted to see a tornado, as long as it didn’t hurt me or anyone around me. Now I could watch violent storms all day, thanks to the prevalence of cell phones. My dad knew someone in West Tennessee who was walking between his barn and his house when he was caught up in a tornado. He remembered seeing a lamp whirling around with him. The funnel set him down gently a mile or so away.

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        1. Wow! What a story! Can you imagine how that must have felt? I love hearing stories like this – just fascinating! My parents got caught up in a small twister once. They were driving one of my sisters to the hospital emergency, during a storm one night. Dad said he had the accelerator “floored” but they weren’t going anywhere! Dirt and gravel pelted the car while it rocked in the wind. Suddenly it all stopped, and as the dust cleared and rain lightly fell, Mom and Dad realized the car was headed in the opposite direction they had been driving. They later heard a small funnel cloud had been sighted just a mile from where they had been.

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  3. It’s good to hear that your first tryout of your shelter was benign. It occurs to me that modern batteries bear an expiration date years in the future—I think I’ve seen as much as 10 years—so you could keep a flashlight, portable radio, and extra batteries in your shelter. The fewer things you have to think about taking out there with you in a hurry, the better.

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    1. Excellent thought… “The fewer things you have to think about taking out there with you in a hurry, the better.” Fortunately, there is plenty of room in the shelter, and all of the items you noted are relatively small. All we should have to take are the dogs!

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    1. I have never suffered real loss due to a storm. We’ve had friends whose homes were hit, and I can tell you I hope I never go through that. But it is a good feeling to be safe in a threat. I’m thankful we finally managed to bring in a shelter last year.

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  4. We don’t have drastic weather changes this end but when a cold spell (relatively speaking) hits leaves fall from trees only to have another weird summer with and heat waves to which our garden goes into spring mode. With the drought, we’re losing trees and that makes me sad. I love your sweet doggie photos.

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    1. As you know, drought brings it’s own set of troubles – wildfires! We have them here too, but somehow they are never as devastating as they are in other parts of the coutry/world. It sure helps to have volunteer fire departments in the rural areas to help snuff those out if possible.

      We had a couple of hard freezes lately, so I’ve picked the last of the gardens. Now if that mosquito population would just go away!

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  5. In our part of MN, tornadoes are a rarity, but I remember many times trooping to the basement as sirens went off while growing up in So. Dakota! Just eerie when the sky hits that certain tone of green …. glad the weather system safely passed you by this time. (And gosh that little Oscar is a cutie!)

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    1. I know “Tornado Alley” covers quite an area, reaching far to the north. It doesn’t surprise me that South Dakota gets their share. We experienced them a lot in Nebraska too. Oscar is a cutie and he’s very smart. Too smart sometimes. 😀

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  6. How is the shelter ancforfed to the ground? A strong wind can’t pick it up? I need one too and hate to spend the money but I will put mine very near the house. I’m so glad you all were not affected by the storm.

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    1. Yvonne, I may have written this when you were tending to your son and maybe you missed it: https://littlesundog.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/a-long-overdue-safe-room/ These above ground safe rooms are pricey, but such a good alternative to the in-ground shelters. Easy entry and closure. I can’t tell you how many elderly people told us they could not get into their in-ground or basement shelters as they aged. This was a perfect solution.

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  7. One thing Oklahoma and Northeast Texas share are those tornado threats in Fall and Spring. I’m glad all went well and your husband got to see the game. I know how important that can be.

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    1. I am not a sports person at all, but I know this time of year, football rules at our house. It’s just a good thing these storms aren’t common in the fall and winter. Losing the satellite signal often happens in the spring with rain and volatile storms… there would be some mad sports fans if that was common during football season!

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    1. I have a video from this post, and the narration covers why we chose an above ground safe room: https://littlesundog.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/a-long-overdue-safe-room/ I will probably get a portable radio and some sort of flashlight and batteries to keep out there all of the time (as Steve Schwartzman suggested above). I generally have water, snacks, dog bowl and snacks, and a couple of light blankets and jackets – all in a plastic tub. We also have four lawn chairs and a couple of the pool mats for comfort in case we would be stuck in the shelter for long. http://areaseptic.com/safe-rooms website has the specs on the construction. I am sure there are companies in your state that offer similar type safe rooms. We opted for the medium size in case we had visitors or orphaned wildlife that we were caring for at the time.

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        1. Ha ha! I forgot about Sheila’s quarters. No, not many folks have basements down here. Soil is sandy or clay… not great for basements. I was surprised about that when I moved down here. There are literally a handful of homes with basements in this town, and those are not full house basements.

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    1. I have been fascinated with tornadoes since I was quite young. With today’s technology, we watch them via storm chasers who capture it live by ground and by air (with helicopters). It’s normal to observe it all happening from your television. And watching radar on computer is interesting too. One can pin point the hail cells or possible rotation and zoom in to see if your city block will be affected or if you are in harm’s way. It’s quite interesting with the same radar, to be able to zoom in on weather anywhere! I often watch weather in Nebraska, where my family lives, about 450 miles from here. When tornadoes have come close to our city, it’s difficult to see since we’re surrounded by trees and we’re in a valley. Watching the television (at least until we lose the satellite signal) and our electronic devices is important to be safe! March through June is when we see most of the volatile weather in the Midwest US.

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  8. Hi i am kavita from south africa. We are so blessed not to have wild fires on our north coast
    No tornados etc.
    Home is concrete buildings. I do keep my pets very close snd fear the safety of squatters and the poor.

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    1. Hello Kavita! We see most tornadoes in the spring and early summer months – normally March through June. Wildfires generally take place in the hottest and windiest summer months, July and August, and fortunately we have never had one in our area.

      I am glad you mention pets. My biggest fear here is of the foxes and coyotes. My house dogs are small, and of course we care for orphaned wildlife from time to time, so keeping them safe from predators is important. I am continually amazed at how resilient animals are with the fierce weather conditions we have at times.

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      1. Totall agree with what you say. We had a case in Cape Town. They had to let the horses free to run away. One horse was found days later burnt but he was treated. They despaired for the rest but their dog brought ALL the other horses home.
        I cried.
        Any wonder why i prefer animals to people?!

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  9. One of the first experiences I had with my first computer was watching live coverage from the May, 1999 OKC tornado outbreak. Now, with a friend in Purcell (whose daughter lives in Lawton) and some fringe relatives in Tulsa. I pay more attention. You were so smart to get that shelter. I wish I had such a thing available, but with no land, it’s just not possible. Of course, most people here don’t have any kind of shelter — we certainly don’t have basements. Most of our tornados here at the coast are associated with incoming hurricanes, so at least people are more aware of their possibility.

    Your comments about your ipad radar makes me wonder if you use RadarScope. It’s my go-to app, and I really like it. Not only can I keep track of weather anywhere in the country, I really like being able to keep track of lightning strikes. I’ve grown much more cautious about being on the docks when lightning’s around — and “around” can be a cloud ten miles away. On radar, I can see it.

    I’m thinking it would be good for you to provision your shelter the same way people provision for hurricanes. You could have duplicate flashlights, water, snacks, and so on there, so you wouldn’t need to carry anything except yourselves and the dogs. I have a friend in Kansas who keeps a fifth of good bourbon in his shelter, too — and when the weather starts getting iffy, he packs his substantial camera gear into a really substantial case and gets it to shelter before things get bad.

    I do get Dixie Rose’s carrier out when bad weather threatens. The last thing I want to do is be chasing a cat around the house. She’d be under the bed at the first sign of bad lightning and thunder, and getting her out wouldn’t be easy.

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    1. I will have to check out RadarScope. We get texts from an OKC news channel which has an interactive map where you can pinpoint weather radar anywhere! I follow the weather in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas where I have family. I love following weather so perhaps this RadarScope is better than what I have!

      There are not many basements around these parts. Most folks have in-ground shelters, but we had heard more older people complain about the difficulty getting in and out of them. This above ground shelter is perfect, and this storm surely showed us how handy we had made it to get to… we just need to make a few improvements!

      FD liked that idea about the bourbon! And I had not thought about camera equipment. It would be pretty cool to be at the ready to photograph damage just minutes after a storm.

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  10. Wow! I’m glad you have that shelter too, and especially glad that you were safe! We are so grateful to have ours. We keep folding chairs and water but I never thought of snacks. Why did I never think of snacks? Guess I never imagined being in there for more than 15 to 20 minutes. What if something BIG fell over the door and we were trapped under ground for a day or more?

    Things I now do when I know there will be possible tornadic activity is to put a torch and extra charged batteries into a grocery bag. With those I also put Bob’s and my prescription meds. Placing our muck boots near the front door to slip into, for sure (and dry) footing also helps. Poor Buddy is too big to carry and REFUSES to go into the shelter with us. Last time we tried he pulled out of his collar and took off to go back into the house. We now close him off into one of the hallways in the center of the house and pray we still have a house when we come back up to the surface. I am rambling here, sorry. This topic always gets my blood pressure to rise after outbreak of 2011.

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    1. Yes the snacks and water are specifically for longer stints where we might be stuck in the shelter. We do have a few large trees to the south which could be an issue. I never thought about people taking prescriptions with them – that’s an excellent thought.

      I can imagine the topic would have your blood pressure up. I believe when I came to visit you, it was that year or the year before when you’d had tornadoes go through, and the trees were evidence of that. Trees usually heal but it takes years. After ice damage here one winter it seems it was three or four years later that they finally filled in again and looked good.

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