Sheltering in Place
July 30, 2014, 8:43 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized


My area of NE Tennessee experienced tornado touchdowns and warnings last Sunday evening. Shortly after my phone sent out a loud alert signal, the nearby university’s public warning signal began shrieking. The alert on the phone said: “Take shelter immediately”. Damn! I had 5 people coming for dinner in less than an hour and I wasn’t through cooking! I find it amazing now that that was a concern, but it was early in the game and I was still not convinced the tornado was going to materialize. Quickly turning on our weather radio and the television, we could see and hear all the details. Realizing I had ‘some time’ I began to run through my head what we needed to do to stay safe. I immediately filled my washing machine with a full load of clean water, turning it off just as the wash cycle began, then filled the bathtub too.  I had previously stored drinking water, but doing those two things gave me another fast and easy 75 gallons of clean water, just in case it was needed. While the tub filled I called my daughter to alert her and offered her advice to move to her bathroom and to take her cat and bed pillow too, so that she could hold the pillow over her head should things start flying around. To calm her fears I explained she should sit in the tub, with pillow over her head and head between her knees. I finished my detailed instructions with some sick humor by saying “and then kiss your ass goodbye”. We both laughed and felt better immediately.  Michael went to our root/storm cellar, plugged in our sump pump in case it began to flood, turned on the light and unplugged the dehumidifier. I kept cooking…

Between stirring and chopping, I listened to the radio, watched the darkening sky outside my kitchen window, and went over in my head what else I should do in the next few minutes. Gather important documents? Take food to the cellar? Find my cat? I continued to listen and cook…

As you already know, we were lucky, so very lucky. The tornado touched down about 9 miles from us, barely stirring the leaves on the trees around my house. We got a sprinkling of rain out of it while others lost their homes, cars and security. Our little dinner party turned into more than just a meal with close friends. It became a Thanksgiving celebration on a July evening, so grateful were we all to be skipped by the tornado.

I learned my lesson though. I’m better prepared now. I realize I’d much rather ‘shelter in place’ than go to a public storm shelter, even if my space is just a small room under the kitchen. I’ve moved a transistor radio to the cellar and hung two fold-up, comfortable-enough-to-doze-in canvas sling back chairs down there too. I added a lantern that can be run on batteries or by winding a crank.  I bought a box of granola bars along with some other eat out of hand snacks but I’m looking for a rodent proof metal box to store them in before I move them down. I’ve emptied my ‘old’ stored drinking water and refilled my containers with fresh water and I’ve started making hard copies of all my important documents: driver’s license, credit cards, social security cards, wills, and so forth to store in a water proof box. Now, maybe I should add a pillow too, in case I need to put it over my head, put my head between my knees, and kiss my ass good bye?

P.S. It seems bad weather events are a really good starting point for opening a conversation with a neighbor about ways you might weather the next one together, helping one another to prepare for sheltering in place. These kinds of events  lower our vulnerability while raising our awareness of how important community can be. More on this in my next post.



7 Comments so far
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You can add humor to the worst things……I’m so glad you and yours were spared. We don’t get them here, never used to at least, except for some near here the last 3 years. 2 years ago one was close and for the first time ever I grabbed my purse, cell phone and the cat and went to the cellar. Now I’ve also laid down some more concrete plans for the next time which we all hope never comes. Thanks for good info, even tho I’m basically too old to bend over and kiss my ass goodbye, lol!

Comment by sarasinart

Oh I’d DIE without humor in my life! It’s saved me many a time. And it really did break the tension we were both feeling so was worth the risk. Glad you have a cellar too. Keep it stocked. You may not have time to do it if a storm came really quickly

Comment by simpleintn

We don’t get tornadoes here either and never in July! I think it broke some kind of record.

Comment by simpleintn

We had the winter from hell last year, the worst I can remember. We’ve had tornadoes in the area for 3 summers. One never knows what the weather will throw at us next, and it sure is changing. Your dinner party got to be really special after all of that! Have a good weekend, with quiet weather etc……

Comment by sarasinart

We had the winter from hell here too. It’s certain that ‘the times they are a’changin’. Nice weekend coming up. Hope yours is too.

Comment by simpleintn

I’m curious what you did with the water.

Comment by Doug

I added detergent and dirty clothes to the washing machine the next morning and ran it thru the cycle. I used the water out of the tub to flush the toilet several times thru the night and next day, filled the pet bowls a few times and watered some plants. I had to let the remaining inch or so run down the drain.

Comment by simpleintn

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