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May 20, 2013


"despite the lack of charity"

If Imhofe and company steal my money, there will be blood.

Don't take shelter under a highway overpass from a tornado!

So what is the best survival strategy? Call your Senator? Up your life insurance? Run like hell? What?

NOAA says:

There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Yeah, call this guy:


I'd say "What? is the question and the answer which has something to do with the fact that the sub human vermin gives you guns and then offsets you.

Underground is probably the best place to be.

I've been close enough to a tornado to hear it. It does, in fact, sound just like a freight train.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will seek to offset federal aid to victims of a massive tornado that blasted through Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Rest of country to Sen. Tom Coburn:


Very sorry to see the damage done in Moore. Here's a wish for speedy recovery and rebuilding. There's no recovery or rebuilding for the folks who are gone, at least none that any of us can provide, with or without "budget offsets". Here's a wish for comfort for the loved ones they left behind.

I'm sure we can and will all find ways to help.

I want any money of mine that the thieving John Boehner and James Imhofe are planning on handing out to THEIR parasites, offset or not, to instead be deposited in one of those cool offshore Apple accounts.

Tom Coburn is an asshole. If he was serious about fiscal conxervatism, he would not have voted for tax cuts during a war.

I grew up in Iowa and remember tornados as recurrent, rather exciting events. I don't remember them as being devstrating near-hurricane experiences. Perhaps this is due to a childhood in an unflappable family. I can recall sitting in a tent in Nebraska watchig the tornados skip across the distant landscape. That eveniing, after the tornado show was over, we did an extraordiary thing: ate in a restaurant.

I do remember that Ankeny got hit and a corner of Ames was blown off the map. I was ten or so. I remember the completely flattened houses, just jackstraws. But there were only five or six houses and I don't think any people died. I remember feelikng sorry for the cows.

I have a vague idea that tornados are getting worse, but I don't have any statistics about that.

My chosen offset to save taxpayer money would be turning off the Oklahoma portion of the NOAA satellite and doppler radar warning system.

Also, funds for NOAA warning tips such as the one Dr. Science presented in her 12:18am above should be sharply curtailed (I think they call it sequestered, in an Apple Corp account with no forwarding address), well, maybe just enough for the first five words, "There is no safe option", with a sign language translation for the deaf which reads roughly as "Go f*ck yourselves!"

I want Imhofe and Coburn returned to the Hobbesian state of nature --- "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short, and white", preferably up their own backsides to shelter them and their constituents from all wind but their own, or as Forrest Gump's mother put it, to "life as a box of chocolates --- you never know what you're gonna get good and hard", and I'm certainly not interested in paying for NOAA to let them know ahead of time.

I don't want it in a box.

I don't want on a fox.


Under our federal system, the President SHOULDN'T be told about the tornado, according to our foreskinfathers.

Did this tornado cross state lines?


Then it's not my tornado.

I have my own weather. They have theirs. What the hell were state lines made for, if not to keep their expensive weather away from mine?

I wonder when Erickson will find out that my wife's shotgun (well, via the divorce settlement) is aimed at his head.

I don't share a country with goatf*ckers.

I think we should follow Tacitus' (not the original one whose good name was misappropriated, alas, no, but the vile, loathsome, corrupt, dare I say, tedious one we're stuck with now) nostrum for what ailed New Orleans those many storms ago and apply it to Oklahoma City.

Abandon it to the tumble weed.

Start a survivor Cormac McCarthy conga line headed out of town to environs that require less parasitism at taxpayer expense.

I have a vague idea that tornados are getting worse, but I don't have any statistics about that.

Here's a handy graphic:

That spike in the middle, roundabout 1973, that would be Watergate.

Here's a link to Slart's chart with the right hand side to the present as well.


I guess the even higher spike of 1,050 tornadoes from June 2010-May 2011 was caused by the Stimulus.

The graph measures outrage markers as an indicator of the national weather.

Like stock market indicators, which are interpreted in a contrary manner, upward spikes indicate frothiness in the atmosphere and predict partly calm weather going forward.

Downward spikes in outrage indicate the need to move calmly and in a single file to the nearest shelter, because low pressure Drudge zones are massing aloft.

The upward spikes may also indicate the need for a digital prostate exam and biopsy, but I'd get a second opinion if were you.

I got my chart here, actually. But any port in a storm.

"I hope the rest of the country gives to the people of Oklahoma what they need to live -- though not necessarily to rebuild in the same spot, because sometimes you've got to take a hint. "

What do you mean? If you were talking about people building on the coast where hurricanes hit or on flood plains, yeah, but if you want to avoid tornados you pretty much have to abandon most of the Plains states and a good chunk of the South.

Not that I would mind if we returned much of the Plains to the bison--I think it'd be cool. But the people living there might not see it that way.

If you were talking about people building on the coast where hurricanes hit or on flood plains, yeah, but if you want to avoid tornados you pretty much have to abandon most of the Plains states and a good chunk of the South.

Coastal hurricanes, tornadoes, flood plains, earthquake-prone areas, extreme winter weather, forest fires.

Places where there isn't enough water to support the population, for that matter.

There aren't many places in the US that aren't prone to some kind of geography-specific mayhem.

No fair singling out one group for special treatment, whether favorable or unfavorable.

If we're gonna start saying "no help for you, you live in a disaster-prone area", there's not gonna be a lot of space left to live in.

I'm hard pressed to think of where we would all go.

There aren't many places in the US that aren't prone to some kind of geography-specific mayhem.

Make that the world. There are engineering fixes for some threats, e.g. earthquakes up to certain levels; elevated housing in coastal areas, again for certain levels of hurricane/storm. Folks in the NE got bombed by Sandy, we have our hurricanes and droughts. Nature is that way. We can mitigate for some things, but not for everything.

I don't know what the engineering fix would be in tornado-prone areas for places like schools--storm cellars? Are they effective? Folks who live in areas with known risks have the choice of making plans or living with consequences. I'd have thought that after the earlier OK catastrophe followed by the one in Joplin (one of my old stomping grounds), local leaders might have planned a bit better. Or, at least made the effort and concluded that there isn't an effective strategy for tornado preparation.

People could take some hints form the Maginot Line. Ye know those cool bunker gun turrets that would be lifted to fire and then sunk again below ground for reloading. Require all houses in tornado country to be like that with concrete roofs a metre thick (or equivalent in steel). When a tornado approaches all houses in the path go down to safety. Also provides good protection against those black UN helicopters. And perfect against burglars. Sleep soundly with your house safely down in the pit.

It would also provide a huge stimulus for the building industry and their suppliers.

If Insurance and building regulations were tailored to the specific hazards, it would go a long way to mitigating these sorts of disasters. Because russell is right, there aren't many places here that don't have some sort of natural threat. Paying up front seems to be the way to go.
As far as tornadoes, specifically, we have 75% of the world's total in the middle portion of the US, but in any one place the risk is surprisingly low.
More information can be found here.

Oh, Alex Jones is/seems http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/05/21/18403447-reaching-the-weather-weapon-stage#comments>pretty sure that the Obama administration is responsible for the Oklahoma tornados. The inevitable helicopters are involved.


It's not obvious what you can do beyond making the best current practices universal. It simply isn't practical to try to build most structures to withstand EF-5 tornadoes. Outside of a few critical buildings like hospitals, the best we can reasonably do is to protect lives and rebuild when the storm is over. That probably means requiring good, adequately sized storm shelters in every building, providing warnings to give people time to get into their shelter, and making sure everyone- including governments- has enough insurance to pay for rebuilding.

I remember when this happened. Gave me nightmares.


"I'm hard pressed to think of where we would all go."

Western Washington and the Oregon Coast.

I'm serious. All winter th eupper left had the best weather. Then all summer it happens again. No hurricanes or tornados. No horrendous wild fires. Reasonable temperatures.Volcanoes at intervals of hundreds of years. Earthquakes aren't that big a deal unless you live in a metro area.

Here it is: the only place in the continental US with decent weather and reasonalbe safety from disasters.

People could take some hints form the Maginot Line.

That's ONE German advocating for a Maginot-line defense! One! Ah Ah Ahhh!

Well, many Americans opted for a bunker mindset after 9/11 and since the only solution acceptable for all problems seems to be military, why should it not be taken against natural disasters? Of course it would be preferrable, if storms could be fought with high capacity handgun magazines but since that has too low a success rate, fortress building would be a valid second option. Added advantage, it would be good for the aftermath when the looters, government thugs and zombies arrive to take over. Such bunker homes could become a status symbol. Mitt may have a car elevator, a house elevator should make even more of a splash. What could be more impressive than a palatial home rising from the ground on the press of a button (and disappearing the same way)? Or voice activated like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4GuTYKjMeM>this.

Sorry, I am in a rather cynical mood.

In Alabama, where everyone can obtain a concealed-backhoe permit, anyone can have an underground storm shelter that can bother to put one in.

I didn't have one, but I didn't make the effort to. You don't need electromechanical and hydraulic systems to make it work, nor do you need huge quantities of reinforced concrete.

I can see, though, that the disappearing-house idea might be as appealing as the disappearing-pool is.

If we're gonna start saying "no help for you, you live in a disaster-prone area", there's not gonna be a lot of space left to live in. - russell

Do you, or does anyone else, know the answer to this question. In California, home-owners insurance policies specifically exclude damage due to earthquakes. You can get special earthquake coverage -- but only at a rate that makes it a dubious value. So very few people (outside recent immigrants from elsewhere in the US) buy it.

Does something similar happen for Tornado Alley home-owners?

It's not obvious what you can do beyond making the best current practices universal.

This would be the ideal. I could probably afford to build a home to those standards, if I lived in OK, KS or MO. Most people can't. Homes mitigate nature's impacts by keeping us warm and dry. Elevating and mandating to 'best practices' might make the few who can afford to do so safer, it would leave the rest behind.

Does something similar happen for Tornado Alley home-owners?

I don't know, but there is similar pricey and limited coverage for rising water, i.e. flood, insurance in flood-prone areas, as many NO and Texas gulf coast residents learned to their chagrin. I dount similar 'wind peril' coverage is limited in the mid-west, since that is pretty much a standard homeowner covered risk.

Rising waters and earthquakes are common homeowner policy exclusions because it is difficult to forecast them on an actuarial basis (frequency and severity) and because the market is not large enough to spread the risk with a large enough number of insureds--this is based on my conversations with people inside the insurance industry and I don't vouch for the completeness or that I've written it down correctly. It does make sense, though.

Thanks, McKinney. I hadn't realized that earthquake exclusions were common outside California.

More accurately, I was under the impression that they only happened here. Where there probably is enough data to do some kind of actuarial calculation about them....

More accurately, I was under the impression that they only happened here. Where there probably is enough data to do some kind of actuarial calculation about them.

It's probably less a function of numbers than severity. No insurance company wants to pay for a new foundation every time there is a tremor. On the other extreme, the loss potential is so huge, it can't be underwritten--this is informed speculation. A big enough earthquake and your homeowner's policy would be like owning a credit default swap issued by AIG.

Sullivan has a good comment of tornado-proofing schools affordably.

Rachel had a good report last night on building above ground community safe rooms subsidized by FEMA at schools.

you live in a disaster-prone area

Initial reading: "you live in a disaster-porn area"

Have long been a fan of Paolo Soleri who recently left us. Wager his personal Hobbit house in Arizona might have survived Oklahoma.

In North Carolina, the risk of storm damage along the coast is so great that the law (crafted by coastal representatives and their ilk) basically says that *all* insurance in the state has to share the risk of a huge catastrophic storm, so all the rest of us are paying premiums for the privilege some have of building along the coast . . . if we can even get insurance! Many insurance companies are either shutting down their NC operations entirely or cutting back on their coverage of new clients, since their exposure to risk depends on their total volume of NC business, not just the policies written on coastal properties.

To me, *this* is disaster-porn.


It's not clear to me how expensive upgrading to best practices would be. Certainly, upgrading to better practices- probably a better description than "best practices" of what I have in mind- shouldn't be prohibitively expensive. I'm thinking in terms of making sure that every home has some kind of storm shelter available. It could be a basement, a backyard shelter, or even a community shelter, which probably makes more sense in places like trailer parks. My impression is that a minimal shelter- one that's designed to save your life but without much in the way of comfort- costs at most a few thousand dollars. Amortized over the life of a building, that's not an unreasonable expectation.

Here in California, you can get a lot of bang for your buck by concentrating on the most essential features for earthquake safety. The big ones seem to be foundation bolting, automatic gas shutoff valves, restraining hot water heaters, and attaching all gas appliances with flexible lines rather than rigid ones. Doing all those things should cost less than $5K for a typical single family home and will substantially increase your chance of getting through an earthquake with yourself and your home intact. More extensive and expensive retrofits are not universally required. Reinforcing of unreinforced masonry buildings is required in most places, but it was a fairly big deal when San Francisco mandated retrofits to soft story apartment buildings.

I heard this discussion on NPR regarding shockingly cheap ways (clips and straps to hold the roof on and similar reinforcement at the foundation) of constructing residential structures so that they withstand much of the damage from tornadoes and hurricanes.

Retrofitting, of course, would be prohibitively expensive in most cases.


It's NPR and a university professor talking so maybe it's some sort of leftist do-gooder infiltration of the construction industry .... so keep your heads up.

It may be a bit macabre but the situation would likely look different, if the US had suffered the Blitz like London or the Cold War would still be close to hot. If that were the case there'd be bomb-proof public shelters everywhere and those would (I assume) be also fully valid against storms evn of that kind.

I grew up in Tornado Alley. I agree that it would be a good idea if trailer parks, schools, and work places had a safe area nearby where people could go, but the typical Midwestern family home, at least up until the sixites, had a basement. The tract houses that went in on the edge of town (which, where I lived, were the most vulnerable houses) were built on slabs without basements. I don't know why the change. Perhaps slab houses are cheaper to build?

The thing about tornados: they either blast wooden structures to smithereens, or leave them be with the kind of damage that homeowner's insurance can easily cover. A tornado touched down on the fringes of Ames and completely demolished several houses to the point that it wasn't clear that houses had ever been there in the first place, while houses a block away just lost some shingles. That seems to be the pattern.

I was raised atheist, but tornados have always seemed Biblical to me, Old Testament Wrath of God Biblical. The finger of God comes down out of the sky and smites people, leaving adjacent people unsmote.

If I didn't have a basement and still lived in Tornado Alley, my tornado strategy would be to throw the dogs, my laptop, and my wallet in the car and make a run for it. It is amazing how calm things can be just a mile away from the tornado's path.

There's a Youtube of the OK tornado. One of the guys watching from oh maybe a mile away is wearing a hat. In other words, where he stood the wind was not sufficient to blow his hat off, while in the tornado's path whole houses were being blown down.

Of course, it matters how much of the tornado is touching the ground. Some just touch with the tip, jump back up into the sky, and then touch down again with the tip. the OK tornado was very wide where it touched the ground.


You know it's flat out amazing how "the sky is the limit" when it comes to expenditures/costs such as those incurred for a war (Iraq trillions, which see), but when discussing simple measures like requiring hurricane ties in wood framing it suddenly becomes "We can't afford it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Now here is something our society cannot afford: $350/hr. (and up) attorneys.

And Slart: All my backhoes are open carry. :)

npr had a story this morning on Tornado Proofing a building. It apparently doesn't add too much to the cost.
I spoke with my son in McKinney tonight, who's in the construction business, and he said most new homes there have to meet 'tornado proof' code - Tyeing the roof down, bolting the foundation to the slab, those kinds of things.

* bolting the frame to the foundation

I am not sure that you can build a house out of 2x4s and have it be "tornado-proof" in any sense.

Maybe concrete blocks, with the foundation tied to the top sill via poured-rebar closed cells, and other measures to keep the roof on. The roof trusses are generally 2x4, though, so I suspect those would also have to be beefed up.

It would certainly drive up the cost of housing. I would think it would be cheaper to build a shelter that is safely underground, and let the house go if a tornado comes.

But I am by no means an expert in these matters. I have just seen tornadoes tear frame houses apart while they're still on the ground; hard to imagine that those relatively small & weak 2x4 studs could be made to hold together by some means.

Officials in the Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by deadly tornadoes Monday complained earlier this year about FEMA’s foot-dragging over $2 million in federal grants for “safe rooms” in 800 homes that would protect people from severe weather.

“Our countywide Hazard Mitigation Plan still has not been approved by the State and FEMA,” said a statement posted in February on the City of Moore’s website. It said that changes to federal requirements occurred while the city’s contractor was preparing the plan, adding, “We’ve found that the FEMA requirements … seem to be a constantly moving target.”

Moore officials: Federal grants to help build 'safe rooms' delayed by red tape

Most tornadoes are not EF4 or 5 - those are fortunately very rare (data here). So some measure of making buildings sturdier would help, not only in saving lives, but in limiting damage.

I am not sure that you can build a house out of 2x4s and have it be "tornado-proof" in any sense.

There's probably not a lot you can do to prevent damage from a direct hit by an EF-5 tornado.

I think the general idea is that you take measures to mitigate damage in the cases where that's feasible.

So, for instance, in places where hurricanes or earthquakes are common, building codes are often adjusted to account for the relatively higher likelihood of those things happening.

It doesn't completely rule out all forms of damage, nor does it protect from extreme or catastrophic events. It just helps.

It's not hard to do, and it's reasonably likely that it will make things better in readily foreseeable situations. So, folks do it.

As far as cost, I just figure stuff like this is a "pay me now or pay me later" scenario. If you buy insurance, for anything at all, this is a familiar concept. For a lot of the more basic stuff, the added expense is not really that much.

If folks find public regulation to address stuff like this to be overly intrusive, then that's their prerogative. It seems, to me, to be a bone-stupid point of view, but I'm some kind of socialist, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

It would certainly drive up the cost of housing.

might be cheaper than doing a clean-up and rebuild + hospital bills + cost to replace everything you're ever owned. maybe multiple times.

If you're in Oklahoma, have these two schmucks stand next to your house:


Anywhere else, buy yourself one of them anti-homosexual riders on the home insurance policy ya carry with Regent University.

A house must have fell on them:


Just click the heels of those ruby slippers together and repeat "there is no place like home, especially mine, not yours."

might be cheaper than doing a clean-up and rebuild + hospital bills + cost to replace everything you're ever owned.

I think justification of that kind of thing is looked at on a probabilistic basis. As in: sure, this will save me money IF a tornado makes direct contact with my house, but what are the odds of that happening?

Not saying that's strictly the best policy, mind you.

But contra russell's comments, I believe there are construction techniques that can in fact survive an EF5. Whether you're hiding behind a foot of reinforced concrete or under a couple of feet of planet, an EF5 will not be able to hurt you. Concrete walls are not enough, though; you also need reinforced concreted ceiling joists, roof trusses and actual roof decking.

There are levels and levels, though. Current construction can be made robust via means that have already been mentioned. But those measures will not stand up to much in excess of EF-3, if that.

In California an "earthquake safe structure" does not mean the structure will not be damaged beyond repair. It simply means the occupants will survive.

Mass producing a standardized steel container box big enough to be used as a small classroom and anchoring it securely to the ground does not strike me as a complex or expensive thing to do. Then build your disposable school around it. Rachel Maddow had a pretty good report on this last Tuesday.

Not feasible for a stick building to survive a direct hit but a generous use of cheap Simpson strong ties and anchoring stuff to the ground will save the near misses.

When I was a student/handyman I bought a functioning cargo van for $200 and during a hard time lived in it for a month.

If I lived in Tornado Alley the least I would do is install in my garage some anchor chains (similar to airplane tie-downs) put my loved ones in the trunk, my dog and I would hide in the back seat and pray to our deities.

But contra russell's comments, I believe there are construction techniques that can in fact survive an EF5.

Yes, strictly speaking I'm sure there are.

My point is that there's a broad middle ground between "absolutely bullet-proof" and "there's nothing we can do". In most places, the local building codes are designed to put you somewhere in that broad middle ground, and it's a very useful thing to do.

Where I live in New England, there are codes that require minimal levels of insulation, and minimal standards of roof strength.

In post-Andrew Florida, there are codes requiring buildings to be able to withstand winds of a certain velocity.

All of these things add to the cost of building to some degree, but none of them make housing so expensive that only the wealthiest folks can afford them.

I have no idea what building codes apply in OK. Most likely, whatever standards were in place are not adequate to protect against having an EF-5 tornado land on your house, because it's not practical to build every single house to that standard.

But it is possible, and common, to establish simple standards that will make buildings robust enough to withstand whatever the normal range of weather conditions are in any given area. Or, even beyond normal.

My point is that there's a broad middle ground between "absolutely bullet-proof" and "there's nothing we can do".

I absolutely agree with this and most of the rest of your comment.

Not sure why I posted my van living experience, it just came to my mind that surviving does not require gobs of money.

Have long coveted the a car service pit a good friend has in his garage. Fitting it with a steel lid seems easy. In Tornado Alley how could this not add resale value to a home. Is the ground in Oklahoma really that impenetrable?

Have never been to that part of our country but 30 years ago did travel with a group of students from Oklahoma City putting on the musical 'Oklahoma'. Long ago lost touch but have always had a warm spot in my heart for those folks. May have picked up an accent from our comradeship that still lingers.

Would enjoy a summer helping folks down that way rebuild.

There is a low tech way to to build a home that would survive a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado. But it would not be anybodies idea of a traditional home.

I am thinking of the personal home of the visionary architect Paolo Soleri who passed away last month.

There are affordable ways to build a whole house that will survive an EF-5, but you'll run into trouble with local building codes in a lot of places if you whip up your own ferrocement dome, even if the materials are affordable, and it's a feasible DIY project. Similarly, built a basement with a roof at ground level, and you'll again get in trouble with local government in many places. Financing can be difficult for unconventional housing, too.

OTOH, a storm shelter you can retreat to if given a little warning is much more feasible. We're a few weeks from closing on a house, and if it weren't a very solidly built brick tri-level with a suitable shelter in the basement, a storm shelter would be high on my list for home improvements.

Interesting possibilities for safety and energy efficiency!
What are the barriers to mass production?

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