The Best Shelters for the Worst Tornadoes

Oklahoma is #1 in Tornadoes

And that’s not a good thing. Usually to be number one is something to be proud of. And in a way, our resilience, our sense of community, the way we always help our neighbors and support each other through the tragedy and hardship caused by tornadoes and killer storms, does make us proud. But mostly, knowing we live in the most dangerous state in America for Tornadoes just makes us know we have to work hard to be prepared.

In a list of the worst counties in the U.S. for tornadoes, though Florida had the worst county, two Oklahoma counties, Cleveland and Oklahoma, made the list. Additionally, according to The Daily Beast, data compiled by the NOAA’s National Weather Service indicates that Oklahoma is the most tornado-prone state in the US. Regardless of how you look at it, we know we have to be careful in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Tornado Stats (1950-2012)

  • Tornadoes per square mile: 0.051
  • Average intensity (scale 1 to 5): 0.99
  • Total fatalities: 462
  • Total injuries: 7,390

Those are some pretty scary numbers. Last year in Oklahoma, we had 85 tornadoes. The worst year ever was 1999, in which we were slammed by twisters 145 times! If you’ve been in Oklahoma long, you know that 1999 was the year a monster EF5 tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, leveling neighborhoods, destroying property, injuring 583 and killing 36. And we all remember just 5 years ago when Moore was hit again by an EF5 killer storm. That storm killed 24 and injured 212 others.

Keeping Safe in Oklahoma Weather

So what do we do to protect our families during this unpredictable Spring weather? According to, The official website of the Department of Homeland Security, there are several things to do to prepare for Tornadoes. These include making a disaster plan, putting together supplies, learning about tornado warning signs, and setting up emergency communication systems. But the top thing on the list is to locate a safe room or storm shelter constructed to FEMA standards.

Storm Shelters & Safe Rooms

A safe room or tornado shelter is designed to be the safest place during a tornado or dangerous storm. According to FEMA standards, they should be able to withstand an EF5 tornado, with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Not only should they protect you from the wind itself, but from flying debris.

In an EF5 tornado, that debris can include trees, vehicles, or outbuildings, so a shelter has to be extremely strong and wind-resistant. The construction of the shelter is an extremely important factor in its ability to withstand high winds and flying debris. And the truth is, all storm shelters are not alike.

Are Underground Shelters Safe?

For many years, it seemed that the best place to be during a tornado was underground. Basements and storm cellars became the standard go-to for storm safety. However, underground is not always safe. Many storms bring flooding as well as wind. In 2015, an Oklahoma woman drowned in her underground shelter when it filled with water during a flood.

Underground shelters are not only at risk for possible flooding. There have also been multiple cases where individuals or families have been trapped in their shelters for some time after a tornado. Falling debris can completely cover many underground shelter doors. This can make the doors impossible to open from the inside. It can also make rescue very difficult.

What About Above-Ground Shelters?

Above-ground shelters answer both these problems for your family. You are much less likely to be trapped inside an above ground shelter since its door is vertical rather than horizontal. In addition, you are very unlikely to see any significant water enter your above-ground safe room or shelter. They should be fairly water-tight except for air-vents, which have water shields.

According to the Texas Tech Wind Research Center, above-ground shelters built to FEMA standards are as safe as underground shelters. Larry Tanner, a research associate at the Wind Research Center, was asked about above-ground units. “They’re all safe if they’re tested products,” Tanner answered. He added that safe rooms built to FEMA guidelines can handle a 3,000-pound vehicle being dropped on them no problem. “The 57 Cadillac draping over the sides of the shelter. That’s virtually what we see all the time,” Tanner said.

Are All Above-Ground Shelters Alike?

Definitely not. There are two primary concerns with above-ground shelters and safe rooms. First, the door. If your door opens OUT, you may have a similar problem to the underground variety. Though not as severe, you do run the risk of your door being blocked by debris, just like in an underground shelter. All Southern Safe Rooms are built with INWARD-opening doors. This way, you and your family can always open the door and get out after a disaster.

The second concern is less obvious but just as important. The corners. All Southern Safe Rooms are built with rounded, molded steel corners. Our corners are not square, so they are less likely to sustain damage from flying debris or wind. Also, while bolted or welded corners can be compromised by stress, our molded steel corners are much stronger.

The Best Shelters for the Worst Tornadoes

In short, Southern Safe Rooms are the safest, highest quality tornado shelters available. Oklahoma weather is unpredictable and dangerous. You want to protect your family in any way you can in the event of a monster storm or killer tornado. So give your family the best possible protection. Call Southern Safe Rooms today for a free estimate, and make sure you have a safe place for your family this tornado season!


Photo by Guillaume on Unsplash

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