Oklahoma City and surrounding communities were struck by multiple tornadoes Friday night, killing nine people. This was only 11 days after an EF-5 tornado hit Moore (a southern suburb of OKC). We were in northeast Oklahoma, a long way from the tornadoes that made the news, for my father’s funeral. But our county too had three tornadoes. The funeral was in the morning, but that night the tornado sirens went off three times and we had to scramble to find shelter.
The thing is, Oklahoma doesn’t have all that many tornado shelters. Few houses have basements (something about the shallow water table). Some older homes have storm cellars, but far from a majority. And there are hardly any public shelters.
When the first tornado was spotted and the sirens went off around 7:00 p.m., we had just left the house heading for the hotel. When I was growing up, we, along with much of the community, would go to a church basement, so we headed for where the funeral was. But someone at the scene said that the local churches are not rated as shelters–there are often windows around the top of the basements that might shatter–and I suppose there may be liability issues. So we went on to the hotel. No basement there either, but the guests were all told to take shelter in the first floor hallway. A mattress was dragged out and put up in front of the glass door in case it blew out.
Then at 11:00 p.m., when we were all asleep, the fire alarms were all set off–a deafening woop-woop-woop–and we had to pile out again, waking up and groggily pulling on clothes. This time the elevators were shut down and we had to walk down the stairs, arms full of (heavy) children.
Nobody was hurt and the three tornadoes hit in the country side, so there was minimum damage, but sheesh. . . .
My father’s funeral and three tornadoes–what a day!