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View Diary: Finally some good news, in the form common sense, from Tornado Alley. (75 comments)

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  •  Frequency of School Tornado Deaths in OK (0+ / 0-)

    Monday was the 3rd time in Oklahoma history that there were deaths at a school during the school day. The others were in 1917 (at an Indian Mission school, described as poorly built in the description of the tornado in Tom Grazulis's book, Significant Tornadoes) and in 1930. There have been deaths at schools on two other occasions-1944 at an evening basketball practice and in 1945 at a dormitory at the residential School for the Blind at ~10 PM.

    It's an interesting public policy question as to how much you plan for something that has resulted in 13 deaths in 95 years in the entire state.

    •  I am a bit at a loss--Are you suggesting that (0+ / 0-)

      because these numbers are statistically small, that it doesn't justify taking basic safety measures given the fact that we have Tornado Season Every YEAR like clockwork?

      Or did I read your post wrong?

      •  Basic? (0+ / 0-)

        What do you man by "basic?" By basic, build well when you build new and use the space as best you can in old structures. Retrofitting in old construction is expensive. A state legislator has proposed $300M for building shelters at a time when education budgets are being cut. It's a legitimate question to ask how $300M would best be spent. If the goal is to reduce loss of life in tornadoes in Oklahoma, then putting in shelters at mobile home parks would be much more cost-effective than building shelters in schools.

        •  Just making sure that was what you meant (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peggy, jan4insight, Expat Okie

          before I replied.

          Yes, Basic.

          It's okay, you have never actually been in a Tornado, nor seen people after the fact, with crap sticking out of them. I was in Moore right after the big one in 99, to help a friend move her belongings out of the smoking hole that used to be her apartment.

          There was a minivan 20 feet off of the ground and tied in a bow around the splintered remains of a light pole. It smelled like shit, because the gas lines had been ripped open, and sewage lines were exposed, and there was molding wet insulation everywhere around the splinters and rusty nails. Flattened cars that looked like they had been pulled from a junk yard right after being crushed. No birds singing, everything covered with mud and who knows what else, wet clothes, and photographs and crap just everywhere, knee deep. My spouse was part of the teams that went house to house searching for survivors. No big deal. Just some stiff winds right--don't make a mountain out of a mole hill.

          Then entire town looked just as it does now. And you all out there, outside of Oklahoma, really only hear about the really big tornadoes that hit Moore, you don't really hear about ALL the tornadoes that hit Moore, or any other Oklahoma town, for that matter.

          People come here on vacation from all over the world, to ride in vehicles with professional storm chasers. They spend their valuable money and vacation time, because it's pretty much a given if you come at the right time of the year, you will get up close and personal with a tornado of some kind.

          So yea, Basic.

          Out here, Storm Shelters should be as basic as seat-belts, life preservers, and circuit breakers. They might be expensive, but they are badly needed, and well worth the cost.

          Just ask any of the family members attending memorials this week. They can tell you. Or the teachers who are in the hospital with cracked spines,  because they were covering the bodies of their students with their own body, putting themselves between 200+ MPH winds, and a pile of brick rubble.

          Basic.

          As basic as Tornado Sirens themselves and doppler radar, and Nexrad, and the amazing chasers in vans, and helicopters that warn us down the Street where this stuff is heading.

          You can blow it off and throw a fit, I don't really care.
          I know the kind of mentality you represent right now.
           You won't get it until it happens to you.

          Message received loud and clear.
          Moving along now.

          •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

            You're wrong. I've done more damage surveys than you've seen tornado damage and I know more about the occurrence of tornadoes in Oklahoma and anywhere else in the US than anyone on this forum. I can tell you exactly how many tornadoes passed within 25 miles of Moore from 1950-2012 (220) and how many of them were F/EF4 or F/EF5 (9)

            I've had a child in a school that was hit by a tornado and my wife, a teacher, has had to shelter kids in her classroom and walk out of the school to see damage across the street. I have a friend who is a teacher at Plaza Towers and another at Apple Creek. I've had to help design safety plans for schools in Oklahoma, knowing that the shelter wasn't perfect, but that perfection is very expensive.

            People have looked at the costs of shelters. I suggest you read Merrell et al. . In 2002, their estimated cost per life saved by storm shelters for permanent home residents in Oklahoma was $29M and for mobile home residents $2.6M. Assuming perfect protection for all schools in Okahoma for the $400M in the proposal, over the last 95 years, the cost per fatality saved would be ~$15M/life.

            When you do new construction, put in a shelter, by all means. That's what my family did and it was used both on Sunday and Monday. Retrofitting is expensive and it is not a silly question to debate the costs and benefits of various public policy options.

            If you want to save lives in Oklahoma from tornadoes, then encouraging shelters for mobile homes is the most cost-effective approach. There have been more people killed in mobile homes in tornadoes in Oklahoma in the past 4 years than in schools in the last 95 years.

            There are lots of other issues associated with public shelters (how and when are opened, closed, what to do with pets, liability, transportation, etc.) that are worthy of discussion, but they should be discussed in the context of their costs and benefits in relationship to other policies.

            •  Another factor is time... (0+ / 0-)

              Typically there is less than 15 minutes of notice (http://www.noaa.gov/...) before a tornado touches down.  That means to get to a shelter you have at the outside 13 minutes to blink the sleep from your eyes, figure out whats going on, dress, grab the kids and pets and get to the shelter.  Keep in mind human babies unlike all other mammals do not go still and silent when scared we scream our heads off.  The cat and dog will be doubtless hiding and need to be found.  

              Best thing to do, as I understand it, is to mildly harden houses:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/...

              Put safe areas in new school and public building construction and larger workplaces.  Use existing cell phone networks to provide warnings.  

              Perfect isn't necessary, good enough is.  

              I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

              by DavidMS on Thu May 23, 2013 at 08:31:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Expletive Deleted. (0+ / 0-)

                The technology exists now, that give us a week of warning of the most likely days these sorts of outbreaks will happen.

                15 minutes?  Pshaw--only if you are not paying attention to forecasters. Which you do at your own risk in these parts.

                And with our understanding of Storm Tracking, we know often an hour or more in advance where these dangerous storms are going to travel.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW!

                The only caveat is whether or not tornadoes will stay on the ground or hop. But knowing an HOUR or MORE in advance that a dangerous, rotating Mesocyclone is heading your way is more than enough time to get your ass under ground, and that includes getting school children or anyone else in large groups, to shelter.

                If I read pissed off, it's because I am tired of the bullshit excuses. People don't have to die for these any more. We can read storm signatures on radar way before they get to populated areas.

                I lived here when a 15 minute warning was a fantastic miraculous myth, when it came to storm warnings.

                This crapola about it not being dangerous until the tornado is on the ground is the dumbest exercise in idiocy I have ever seen and I am not going to perpetuate that terrible, idiotic habit. And that is all it is--A HABIT.

                AND--and I cannot stress this enough, Public shelters under schools could save other lives as well.

                If you like watching people die of idiocy while you negotiate about imagined time, and how much $$$ it's going to cost us, be my guest. But I won't participate in that. I am sick of it.

                Oklahoma sure as hell, had a lot less cash back in the 50s, and yet public buildings came with Fall Out Shelters.

                And a Hardened house is only good up to a point. These are EF5s that come through this area periodically.

                The only real solution is to turn that strip into a nature preserve and not rebuild. Good luck with that.

                But barring that, Underground shelters are the only thing that is adequate to protect human lives from EF5 Tornadoes.

                •  Knowing days isn't enough (0+ / 0-)

                  Knowing where a tornado will touch down is necessary to and at roughly what time is necessarily to apply that sort of evacuation plan.  To realistically evacuate on that sort of schedule, detailed forecasting is required.  In my online searches, tornado formation can be predicted for specific days over large regions but sending everyone to shelters in a multi-state area for an entire day is unrealistic.  The warnings need to at least an hour in advance, geographically specific to a county and accurate, At least 70% of the time.  Otherwise people will view them as crying wolf and will ignore the warnings.  

                  The goal is to reduce morbidity and mortality from all causes, picking the cheapest projects first and working to more expensive ones so that every dollar spent has the maximum effect on improving our lives on either a years of life saved or net lives saved basis.  

                  I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                  by DavidMS on Fri May 24, 2013 at 08:47:20 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sorry David, you lose. Knowing those days is (0+ / 0-)

                    better than anything we could ever hope for.

                    Go back to being a CPA, and stop treating people like numbers.

                    If you personally choose to pretend that when the Forecasters predict a dangerous, rotating mesocyclone or Supercell thunderstorm as a "Cry Wolf" scenario, that shows your ignorance about how these storms work.

                    Storms that show the appropriate radar signatures, and those known to produce tornadoes in previous towns are knowledge enough to take cover.

                    If your home is in the path, but is spared, either because the storm wobbled, turned, or the tornado dissipated, then count yourself lucky, but never doubt that was the moment that the big bad wolf was knocking at your door.

                    •  Again its a cost/benifit tradeoff (0+ / 0-)

                      Spending that kind of money may mean that children won't get affordable healthcare, that college becomes even more expensive, that money will not be available to combat climate change, end HIV/AIDS or replace worn out bridges.  

                      Everything in life is a trade off.  There has never been a free lunch.  We can never have it all.  

                      What we can do is use our limited resources to best make life safer and more comfortable for everyone.  Spending billions on a difficult to predict and rare threat (EF5 storms) while ignoring other causes of human misery isn't very progressive.  

                      I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                      by DavidMS on Mon May 27, 2013 at 08:47:52 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Be sure and tell that to the people who lost (0+ / 0-)

                        Someone.

                        Cost Benefit trade off--Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

                        •  I will remember to (0+ / 0-)

                          Tell everyone who lost someone to a lack of healthcare that you would prefer to mitigate rare and spectacular risks.  

                          I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

                          by DavidMS on Mon May 27, 2013 at 07:18:28 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh Wow---I love it when people present me with (0+ / 0-)

                            False Choices.

                            Which is it going to be?

                            You can only have one!

                            Health Care, or Storm Shelters in Public Schools in Tornado Alley.

                            Think carefully--because you can only have one.

                            That's a load of crap.

                            I suppose next you are going to tell us that in California, you can only have Health Care OR Earthquake Building Codes.

                            Or

                            Health Care OR Tsunami Evacuation Plans,

                            Health care OR the USGS Volcano Monitoring System?

            •  I am sorry, your attitude makes your statement (0+ / 0-)

              less than credible.

              •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                That's fine. I don't care about your view of my credibility.

                I don't think you've thought through the trade-offs very well or you'd understand why most emergency management personnel don't like public shelters (issues of when it opens, when it closes, what do you do when more people show up than the shelter can hold, having people driving around prior to the tornado, safety issues within the shelter, etc.) and why school districts aren't all that comfortable with opening up (the Edmond schools had $10-20,000 in costs to clean up and repair damaged property after people ended up in their schools in the Feb 2009 tornado). You might disagree with their conclusions, but their arguments should be considered. I will pass along to the forecasters your high opinion of their abilities.

                I will disagree with your statement that underground shelters are the only thing that is adequate to protect human lives from EF5 tornadoes. It is simply not true. Most of the people that were in houses that were rated F5 on May 3rd survived and, in the Monday tornado, no one died in the only structure that received EF5 damage.

                •  Really? Emergency Management Personnel prefer (0+ / 0-)

                  to dig bloody and broken adults and children out of rubble? That's Rich! I will take that under advisement.

                  People who could afford to build hardened houses. People who can afford shelters.

                  However, When your child is at school, Parents should not encounter a locked down school with NO SHELTER with a Tornado Barreling down upon that facility.

                  If Schools want to be accountable, then they need to have adequate shelters available for their students UNDERGROUND. Otherwise, all their tactics do is serve to create a convenient body count.

                  NO Thanks. Not for my kids, and not for children of friends or even of other citizens I may never meet.

                  If schools are going to insist on remaining open on days known in advance to produce extreme severe weather, and if they insist on lockdowns, then they should be required BY LAW to provide adequate shelters that can withstand EF5 Tornadoes

                  End of story.

                  •  Once more (0+ / 0-)

                    No, they don't prefer that. I believe you're being deliberately obtuse. Emergency managers prefer to save lives. The question is what process leads to the most lives saved for whatever money is spent.

                    I would suggest you speak to your city's local emergency manager about why emergency managers in general don't like public shelters. It's not because they want people to die, but because they have evaluated the options and believe the issues associated with public shelters don't necessarily decrease fatalities. As a starting point, read what the city of Moore says here. They don't go into all of the issues associated with public shelters (how do you make sure they're open when you need them to be and closed when you don't want access to them, do you allow pets). They'd have to weigh the costs and issues associated with underground vs. hardened shelters. On 3 May 1999, there was an indirect death when a man in a wheelchair was dropped taking him into an underground shelter that ended up being 3 miles from the path. Access is a significant issue.

                    Not counting the Indian mission school in 1917, there have been a total of 13 people killed in schools in the entire state of Oklahoma's history. That's less than the number killed in mobile homes in the last 4 years in the state. If your goal is to reduce death tolls, as mine is, then the focus should start by encouraging shelter options where people die often, not where they rarely die. For the $400,000,000 proposed for school shelters, you could provide shelters for 100,000 homes. If that money isn't allocated by the state, who's going to pay for these required shelters? Should the Norman and Oklahoma City and Putnam City and Mid-Del school districts have all closed for the day on Monday, even though tornadoes during the school day are rare in Oklahoma (75% of all tornadoes within 100 miles of OKC are on the ground between 5 and 9 PM).

                    There has been one F5/EF5 tornado that has killed someone at a school in Oklahoma history (Monday) and there were no deaths at the school with the EF5 damage.

                    •  I am not being Obtuse. I am merely tired of (0+ / 0-)

                      this attitude from outsiders.

                      Who is going to pay?

                      The same people who are paying now.

                      We pay for everything. Why not save some lives while we pay this time, instead of paying in money, time, and loss of lives.

                      It's doable. This never has to happen again.

                      I believe you are the one being obtuse.

                      This Never Has To Happen Again.

                      •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                        I support putting a shelter in new construction, just as Moore did when they they repaired Westmoore and rebuilt Kelly Elementary. People should do shelters in their homes when they build new or add on. The added cost is small when part of a big project. The analyses that I've seen strongly suggest that doing new construction simply for storm shelters at schools will result in fewer lives saved per dollar spent than many other things.

                        I don't understand what you mean about "outsiders." I live in Oklahoma. A friend is a teacher at Plaza Towers. I had a long talk yesterday with another friend who was in shelter with her students at a school that was missed by 100 yards.

                        •  I find your statements hard to believe given (0+ / 0-)

                          the nature of your previous statements.

                          The fact that some schools don't have shelters is the cause of someone's short sightedness.

                          What's done is done. Now we get to remedy this. Sometimes when you cut corners, you don't just pay in lives.

                          It's time to do what should have been done a long time ago. It will cost us.

                          It's going to suck. But it has to be done. It is the responsible thing to do .

                          Poorer school districts have shelters outside of that area, that completely blows my mind. And then I am just thankful that the people in those areas were able to sacrifice enough or find access to funds to do what every district and every school should do, should have done, years ago.

                •  And Further More--My High Opinion of Forecasters (0+ / 0-)

                  Have you ever looked at the NOAA and NWS "discussions"? They know far in advance, what weather patterns to watch, and if you read these pages, you will too. This isn't encrypted or kept from regular citizens.
                  Main Page: http://www.weather.gov/
                  Click on OKC on the first mainpage interactive map and it brings up this next page: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/...  which shows active radar images and local watches. Right now the state appears to be in a Hazardous Weather Outlook--it's color coded beige.

                  You can click on Hazardous Weather Outlook and it says:

                  SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP...BUT SEVERE
                  THUNDERSTORMS ARE UNLIKELY.

                  So basically we can expect thunder, lightning, a little wind and rain, but no severe storms producing tornadoes, high winds, torrential rains or large hail.

                  Under the discussion:
                  THE ATMOSPHERE WILL BECOME MODERATELY UNSTABLE TODAY WHICH WILL
                  SUPPORT SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS TODAY AND TONIGHT.
                  HOWEVER...UPPER LEVEL WINDS WILL BE UNFAVORABLE FOR ORGANIZED
                  SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS. THE AREAS MOST LIKELY TO SEE THUNDERSTORMS
                  WILL BE PORTIONS OF SOUTHERN AND WESTERN OKLAHOMA...AND WESTERN
                  NORTH TEXAS...NEAR SEVERAL WEAK SURFACE BOUNDARIES. A FEW STRONG
                  STORMS MAY DEVELOP GIVEN THE MAGNITUDE OF INSTABILITY. THESE STORMS
                  WILL POSE A THREAT OF SMALL HAIL AND GUSTY WINDS TO 40 MPH.
                  OTHERWISE...MODERATE TO HEAVY RAINFALL WILL ACCOMPANY MOST STORMS.

                  My high opinion? Well I now know not to go an any long hikes in areas prone to flooding, and if I don't want hail dings in my car, don't leave it uncovered tonight.

                  .DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY...

                  THUNDERSTORM OUTLOOK...
                  RELATIVELY LOW THUNDERSTORM CHANCES PERSIST EACH DAY THROUGH THURSDAY.
                  ISOLATED SEVERE STORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE...BUT LACK OF STRONG UPPER LEVEL
                  WINDS WILL MAKE ORGANIZED SEVERE WEATHER UNLIKELY.

                  So--Sat May 24th through Thursday, May29th--that's 5 days out now--thunderstorms could happen, but the atmosphere as the models project will not support organized, severe weather. 5 Days!

                  Now then if I am smart, and I keep checking back to these pages, I will know if something changes in the atmosphere, that might lead to severe weathers. It's rather handy for camping and hiking, or just knowing when not to stray too far from home, or how fast one should drive to get out of the risk area during the course of a trip somewhere else.

                  If you click on OKC on the NWS interactive Map again, it will pull up the 7 Day Forecast! 7 whole days!
                  You can also narrow it down even further [geographically speaking]  by clicking on the Zone Area Forecast.

                  When NWS posts material warning in advance of Severe Weather, you can check out the Weatherdude diaries, and see what those graphics look like. FYI, I am simply utilizing his blogs because he provides these graphics. I did not ask his permission.

                  http://www.dailykos.com/...

                  Note here, though, that this post is on Monday, and it predicts severe weather chances everyday with it peaking on Weds.

                  And see where the really bad stuff is centered? If you live in that red area, you know, all weak will be chancy weather, not to stray too far from shelter, and that Weds is going to be particularly hazardous, so get your errands run before noon on Weds [because afternoon convection heating is an issue in the afternoon]

                  Thanks to the software and the forecasters who analyze this, it's not rocket science on our end. We get the end product which is pretty snazzy and useful.
                  NWS had this to say about community shelters.

                  What about community tornado shelters? Community tornado shelters are excellent ideas for apartment complexes, schools, mobile home parks, factories, office complexes and other facilities where large groups of people live, work or study. FEMA has some excellent design and construction guidance for these kinds of shelters; and a licensed engineer can help customize them to the needs of your facility.

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