Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Communal Sheltering

We should first start out by noting that it is difficult to build basements in the type of soil that much of Oklahoma rests on.  Wet damp clays expand and contract a lot, so you are at risk of having your house squeezed-pulled apart from below.  That is likely why Auntie Em and company went outside to get to their shelter.

But still, people still had their little shelters.

That is changing.

Why Aren't There More Storm Cellars in Oklahoma
Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 21 May 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Sheltering, in other words, is moving from an individual concern to a collective one. And while community shelters still aren't the norm -- Moore, for example, has no official public shelter, on the logic that sheltering-in-place is often the most prudent strategy -- that shift makes sense. More public shelters will mean more options for people when tornadoes form, as they do, with little notice. One reason tornadoes prove so deadly now is that, given the spread of the suburbs, their funnels simply stand a better chance of touching down where people are. Tornadoes used to hit farmland; now, that same land is increasingly concentrated with people. If the suburbs keep expanding, Paul Douglas put it, "we're going to see more of this." 

Now, the behavior of coastal folks in relation to the threat from hurricanes is egregious enough that I want to make the strong point that there is nothing unusual about this "worry when it happens" and "why didn't/doesn't the government do something about it" attitude.
One of the tricks of the story is to set the bar for protection so high that few individuals could ever afford a shelter.  You don't need missile proof shelters.  You aren't going to be in their for days, a covered trench, a root cellar without the supply space, would work in most circumstances.  Even  a tiny closet made of poured cmu block reinforced with rebar, above ground would probably suffice.  And it is easy enough to build that, building code officials aside, you could do one yourself over time.
But its hopeless.  We are were we are, and you aren't going to turn the wheel back.


jambaloney said...

how about that woman who lost 5 houses to hurricanes?


i think stricter building codes would help, but as you pointed out, nobody is gonna pay up front...

so after the dust settles...the cost is tallied, the bodies counted, the outrage expressed and the handouts delivered..dd nauseam

people must prefer it this way..

PioneerPreppy said...

I think by and large tornadoes really are not that big of a deal and overall the cost of shelters that would NEVER be used would be so high as to be prohibitive.

It isn't that I have any sympathy, don't get me wrong, but the actual chances of a tornado doing the damage we have seen the last two years is really quite small.

I can remember 10 years ago or so standing on a hill outside of Wichita watching half a dozen tornadoes at various distances. One went right over a house and really did nothing to it. The big F4's and F5's are really rare.

While I don't live in tornado ally I am close and my house is well over 100 years old and has never been hit by a tornado. Is there a coastal house that can say the same about a hurricane?

PioneerPreppy said...

That should be Don't have sympathy :)

PioneerPreppy said...

In fact let me come back as something else just occurred to me. We are under a tornado watch right now here and I have seen numerous times that the sirens have gone off which means a tornado has been spotted on the ground heading our way and 99% of the people just ignore it and go about their business. They really are so localized that there isn't much you can do about them and it is very rare you need to.

russell1200 said...

Jamboloney: There really is no cure for tornedos. Even a lot of the wind damage done by hurricanes is by spawned off tornedos. Anyone that unlucky should live in a half subsurface cinderblock bunker.

Pioneer: Oddly enough, a lot of the homes on the coast do survive hurricanes. The tidal surge can have its own odd localized phenomena. Even with something as huge as Katrina, there were coastal areas where the storm surge went miles inland, and areas it stuck fairly close to the beach zone.

On the plus side, the individual randomized nature of tornedos makes them much easier to insure than the wide spread insurance company bankrupting (if they paid their actual legal obligations) events like hurricanes and earthquakes.

PioneerPreppy said...

Russ - I think you misunderstood me I didn't say my house has survived a tornado. It has never been through one. Sure plenty of storms that could shoot off a tornado but not one has hit the house. Considering the land mass and all the actual chances of a tornado actually hitting much and then being big enough to do anything are quite low.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: No, I knew what you meant based on the 100 year comment. I was responding to the issue of randomized destruction as it related to homes on the coast. The point being, it is less random, to the point that it aught to bankrupt a lot of insurance pools, but still more random than you would think.

How building codes should deal with intermittent threats is a huge issue. Building codes (including private buildings) are for the public good, not the owners. But tornadoes don't spread like fires, so where to draw the line is less clear.