Autumn Tornado Facts in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Average Tornado CountAutumn in Oklahoma may bring to mind blue skies, comfortable afternoons and crisp nights, but many areas of Oklahoma will experience severe weather and tornados during this time. In fact, October is the busiest month for tornados in Oklahoma outside of high storm season (March – June). 

We recently wrote about Oklahoma tornado averages by month, and it is clear that activity peaks in the spring and increases slightly again in the autumn. This secondary peak happens when the jet stream shifts farther south after retreating northward during the summer months. An active jet stream pattern provides the deep wind necessary for supercells and large outbreaks of severe storms.

There have been 129 tornados reported in Oklahoma in the month of October since 1950. Also, 1998 was the most active October with 27 tornados reported statewide!

Autumn tornados are slightly less likely to be strong or violent than their spring counterparts. About 20% of autumn tornados are rated F2 or stronger compared to 28% in the spring. Catastrophic F4 or F5 tornados are rare outside of the spring season. That being said, damaging and deadly tornados can happen at any time of the year.

The strongest tornado that took place in the fall happened on October 5, 1970. An F4 tornado struck Shawnee and Prague then dissipated in Okfuskee County. That particular storm killed four people and injured 84. 

An unusually wide F2 tornado injured four people in Haydenville on October 4th, 1998. That system spawned six other tornados in northeast Oklahoma and a hailstorm that damaged hundreds of roofs and windows in Okmulgee.

Tulsa County in particular has experienced three weak tornados in the month of October (1983, 1991 & 1998). The 1983 tornado occurred on the flank of a microburst that damaged South Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow.

So far, 2015 has seen above average tornado outbreaks during high storm season. We will soon find out if this trend continues as we move into October.

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How to Effectively Store Items in Your Storm Shelter

Storm Shelter StorageDoes your heart start pounding at the thought of a tornado? We can’t blame you! These bad boys of nature are fast, heartless, and devastating. How do you stand up to one of nature’s most destructive forces? By building a storm shelter of course! If you are thinking of getting a tornado shelter installed, or already have one, storage is a very important part of your shelter. 

We recently wrote about what to keep in your storm shelter. Now, we will give you some tips for storm shelter storage ideas. Check them out below:

  • Place bins under the benches to add storage space without using the limited floor space in your storm shelter.
  • Use hollow ottomans for additional storage.
  • Storage can also be used for bottled water, snacks and medications.
  • Hang baskets high.
  • Install shelving for radio, flashlight, water, etc.

We hope this helps! If you have any storm shelter storage examples of your own, send them to us and we might feature your pictures on our website or Facebook!

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Things Not to Do During a Tornado

What not to do during a tornado infographic from Ground Zero Shelters in OKCWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – tornados can happen at any time and at any place! The keys to survival are preparedness and action. If you are prepped ahead of time, the odds of surviving a tornado as well as the aftermath goes up tremendously.

When it comes to taking a direct hit, surviving is simply a numbers game. You want to put the odds in your favor by doing what you can to maximize your chances of survival. We have compiled a list of five things you should NOT do when a tornado hits in order to increase your odds for survival. Happy reading!

  1. Not taking tornado warnings seriously. There are tornado warning false alarms all of the time. We've all been under warnings when nothing happened. However; when you hear those sirens go off, the time to take action is now! Hop in your storm shelter, or get home immediately if you are out and about. This advanced warning is key to your survival. You do not want to roll the dice on your life! 
  2. Look out the window. We all know that windows are dangerous during tornados, but what do most people do when they hear a tornado warning? They run right to the window to see if they can see it! That is a big mistake. Windows can be easily broken, and will send glass and other debris from the outside right toward you! Did you know that being hit by debris is the number one way people are injured or killed in tornado? Don’t be a statistic and get away from your windows!
  3. Open the windows of your house. Speaking of windows, we want to set the record straight about opening them during a tornado. Some people do this because they believe that the pressure will equalize and the windows will not shatter. This is a myth! According to the experts, opening the windows will only succeed in letting the winds into the house so that internal supports can be shaken apart which will weaken the house even more. The bottom line is – don’t open your windows. It’s a waste of time! 
  4. Try to outrun a tornado. A tornados average speed is 10-20 mph across the ground, but can reach speeds up to 60 mph! If you think you are a fast driver and can outrun the tornado, think again. Your chances are slim-to-none when it comes to outrunning a tornado. As soon as you hear that tornado warning siren, seek shelter immediately and stay indoors. If you are nowhere near a shelter, you should stay in your car and buckle up or if possible, get below the level of the road like a ditch. 
  5. Take cover underneath an overpass. When severe weather hits, people will often park their cars underneath overpasses in order to avoid getting damage from hail and debris. But when the tornado sirens come on, being underneath an overpass is the absolute LAST place you want to be! Winds actually accelerate as they travel underneath an overpass, enough to cause the structure to fall apart and even lift vehicles off the ground. Check out our detailed article about why NOT to seek shelter under an overpass during tornados.

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Documents You Need for Your Grab-And-Go Binder

Sometimes in emergency situations, people do not think how they normally would. We never know how we are going to react Why You Should Have A Grab-And-Go Binder for tornado emergencies in Oklahomain an emergency until it actually happens. In order to prepare for any situation, preparing a grab-and-go binder should be an important part of your family emergency plan. This binder should contain your family’s most important information and documents. 

With that being said, it’s time to get organized! We suggest adding the following to your grab-and-go binder:

Financial Documents

  • Copies of the front / back of credit cards.
  • Copies of house and car titles.
  • Copy of your will or living trust.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all banks.
  • Other important documents related to employment or business.
  • Copies of your insurance policies (life, health, auto, homeowners).

Personal Documents

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of relatives and friends.
  • Copies of the following:
  • Marriage License
  • Birth Certificates
  • Drivers Licenses
  • CCW Permits
  • Pet Vaccine Records
  • Passports
  • Social Security Cards
  • List of firearm serial numbers.
  • Legal documents pertaining to child custody or adoption.
  • Recent photos of each family member and any pets.
  • Color photos of your house and each room in the house.
  • Photos of anything of particular value.
  • Military documents.
  • Diplomas and transcripts.
  • Appraisals.

Medical Documents

  • Copy of health insurance cards.
  • List of blood types for each family member.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors.
  • Medical histories of each family member.
  • Immunization records.
  • List of current prescriptions, dosage, and pharmacy contact information.

Once your grab-and-go binder is finished, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you and your family can concentrate on a speedy evacuation without trying to retrieve important documents. Remember that being prepared is your best chance for a quicker recovery in any disaster situation!

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7 Tornado Myths Debunked

Tornado Myths What do you think of when tornados come to mind? Images of massive funnel clouds tearing over the Great Plains and destroying small towns and mobile homes? Well, the news is tornados vary greatly in size and strength and can happen anywhere, at any time of the year! 

Although freak accidents do happen ― and the most violent tornados can level a house ― most tornados are much weaker than the giant EF5s that most people imagine. There are tons of tornado myths out there, so it can be hard to know what advice to follow. Below we are debunking seven of the most common tornado myths out there.

  1. Taking shelter under an overpass will save you.
    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You should never seek shelter under an overpass!Even if the overpass or bridge seems structurally sound, a wind tunnel can form as a tornado passes, pushing and pulling anything beneath the overpass directly into the path of the storm. Flying debris is a common cause of death or injury to those using this method of shelter.
  2. The size of a tornado is indicative of its destructive strength.
    The idea that size matters is absolutely false with a tornado. While the area a tornado covers may give it a larger appearance of strength, any size tornado can be deadly. In many cases, what are referred to as ‘rope’ tornados (smaller, narrower funneled storms) have often left the most destruction.
  3. Tornados might skip certain houses and buildings.
    The truth is that a house or building might be “missed” by the path of destruction, or may have withstood the storm to a larger degree in contrast to neighbors, thereby seeming to have been “saved”. Tornados can lift and retract and drop back to a path elsewhere. This behavior is unpredictable, and while in essence seems to avoid one building and destroy the next is not necessarily evidence of divine intervention.
  4. Tornados only pose a danger when they touch down.
    Onlookers may feel safe from a distance, often assuming that the actual funnel of a tornado is itself the tornado. In reality, the circular winds racing as much as 60 mph surrounding the funnel and extending well beyond its perceived breadth contain the most destructive power. Also, debris trapped and tossed along with the tornado pose greater risks of injury or death and can land great distances from the ‘center’ of the tornado.
  5. Certain terrain features can end or divert the path of a tornado.
    Many people have thought that bodies of water can create obstacles for tornados. In fact, some of the most violent tornados have actually formed on lakes and rivers. Again, a tornado can move over, across, and through anything and everything! 
  6. You will always see a funnel cloud.
    Don't assume that as long as there are no visible funnel clouds that you are safe. They can be hidden in heavy rains during the day or by the dark of night.
  7. The southwest corner of your house is the safest place to take cover.
    This myth stems from a meteorological theory published in 1887. It advised people that they should never take shelter in the NE corner of a room. The theory was published in several newspapers and became a popular belief. However, debris can be blown to any corner of a house!

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Above Ground vs. In-Ground Storm Shelters

Storm Shelter Benefits Above Ground vs In-GroundStorm shelters are a must when you live in tornado alley, especially when faced with the reality of severe storms that frequently hit this area. Confused on which kind of storm shelter is best for your family? Ground Zero Shelters is here to help! We break down all of the facts right here!

Let’s Talk Safety!

Which storm shelter offers more protection? Most people think that underground shelters are safer than above ground shelters. But the truth is, both options have proven to be a solid choice. 

Larry Tanner, from the Texas Tech University Wind Science & Engineering Research Center, said “In my 15 years of doing storm damage research and storm shelter research, we have never documented any deaths or injuries in above ground tested safe-rooms or failures of tested safe-rooms. This includes the storms of Joplin 2011 and Moore 2013”

There was rumor that you could only survive these tornados if you were underground, but put to the test, the above ground safe rooms did their job and saved lives! The bottom line is no one has ever been killed in an approved safe room whether above or below ground.

Where to Install Safe Room?

One of the main concerns people have is where they should put their safe room. The good news is that above ground storm shelters can go almost anywhere in your home including the closet, pantry or your garage. Even though safe rooms can be installed just about anywhere, one negative would be that it will take up valuable square footage.  

Where to Install Underground Shelter?

Underground storm shelters can go your garage. Even though the actual storm protection is the same, it would be more beneficial if your shelter is inside the home (i.e. garage). This is because having your shelter outside can expose you to lightning, hail, extreme winds and dangerous debris which may prohibit you from quickly getting you and your family to safety.

If you put an underground shelter inside your garage, it will be installed flush with the ground and stick up about 1/2" to keep water from going into your shelter.

Handicap Accessible?

Another benefit of the safe room is that they are handicap accessible. You do not have to step down into the shelter, you can just wheel right in!

Other Benefits:

  • Both shelter types add value to your home.
  • Above ground shelters can also keep you safe from intruders.
  • Both shelters can be GPS located.
  • All shelters are thoroughly tested at Texas Tech Wind Science & Research Center.

When planning ahead for your family’s safety, it’s always good to do your homework. The truth is, you can’t choose wrong when deciding between an above ground or below ground storm shelter. It really just comes down to a personal choice. And that choice that will give you the peace of mind that you and your family will be safe from tornados!

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