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May 5, 2007 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Then God dragged his finger across the earth... Greenburg, Kansas, May the Fifth, 2007.
posted by eriko (141 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
. my god. I'm from Oklahoma and have been in my fair share of tornadoes, but I've never seen anything like that.
posted by mrbill at 9:12 PM on May 5, 2007




May they rest in peace. What terrible photographs.
posted by infini at 9:15 PM on May 5, 2007


I knew a tornado had hit, but didn't realize the extent of the damage. That footage is just plain beyond words..
posted by gemmy at 9:16 PM on May 5, 2007


horrific... what could you possibly do, save not live in that area? I mean what could men build & live in that could survive such a force?
posted by jonson at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2007


FSM dragged his tentacle.
posted by Balisong at 9:20 PM on May 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


.
posted by bumpkin at 9:20 PM on May 5, 2007


Jesus god.
posted by rtha at 9:21 PM on May 5, 2007


Amazing so few people died though, considering the utter devastation, CBC reports 9 dead. When I saw those pictures I was imagining hundreds.
posted by bumpkin at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2007


I'm in Kansas, and the whole state feels like it's in shock... The damage was far away from me, but these things are always such a wake-up call... We Kansans tend to be very jaded about our weather, but something like this really sends a chill up one's spine... There have been additional tornadoes moving all through our area all evening, so it's going to be a long night.
posted by amyms at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2007


There are ways you could design housing to survive tornadoes, just like you can design houses to survive earthquakes, flooding, permafrost, forest-fires, etc.

There are folks whose monolithic dome houses come through all sorts of terrible weather in one piece.

Whether people living there can build such houses is an open question.
posted by Crosius at 9:27 PM on May 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


As I went through the pictures, I happened to catch the photographer's last name and thought it ironic.
posted by RayOrama at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2007


Crosius beat me to it. Even if individuals couldn't all have houses like that I think it would be worth considering having at least one public structure like that in disaster prone areas...like the fire station or something so that emergency services can have their kit intact after such a disaster and double as a public shelter.
posted by well_balanced at 9:35 PM on May 5, 2007


I happened to catch the photographer's last name and thought it ironic.

I am become death, tbe destroyer of worlds.
posted by eriko at 9:35 PM on May 5, 2007


Yeah, I was going to mention monolithic domes as well. They're pretty cheap to build to, if I remember correctly.
posted by puke & cry at 9:39 PM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ugh.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:42 PM on May 5, 2007


eriko, I'm sorry to be a nitpicker, but in case anyone searches for this post in the future, you might want to change your tag to "greensburg" (there's an s in there) :)
posted by amyms at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2007


An evil god.
posted by dopamine at 9:45 PM on May 5, 2007


I've lived most of my life in regions of the country where tornadoes are a fact of life every year. I've witnessed devastation first hand. When I was twelve, I saw tornadoes do worse to a mobile home park then what you saw in those pictures, while my neighborhood less than a mile away on the other side of railroad tracks was left relatively unscathed. I don't know if I'd say finger of Jehovah or tentacle of Cthulhu. I also wouldn't say Global Warming. It's just... air! Terrible, life-stealing, powerful, decimating air.

.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:47 PM on May 5, 2007


damn, that does look like a bomb hit, not a tornado.
posted by mathowie at 9:51 PM on May 5, 2007


I haven't seen anything like this since Barneveld.
posted by dhartung at 9:53 PM on May 5, 2007


For those of you that don't live in Tornado Alley, there really is not a way to have a public shelter that will work. There simply is not enough time to respond to a warning and walk across town to a shelter. You might salvage emergency equipment in a particular building, but you won't gather the people there.

This is why basements are essential safety elements in Tornado Alley, but far too many homes are built on flat slabs. From those pictures, it appears more than one home that was blown away was on a slab. The cost of a basement and issues with ground water keep slab homes popular, but they are not safe in the Alley.

The dome idea is interesting in theory, but not practical. There is no way you're going to get all the homes in the Alley to be converted into domes. Plus, while the article says they can survive a tornado, I saw no evidence. Tornado's aren't just about wind, which can reach above 300 mph, but also about flying debris. A piece of straw at tornadic speed can penetrate a telephone pole.
posted by Muddler at 10:00 PM on May 5, 2007


you might want to change your tag to "greensburg" (there's an s in there)

Fixed, thank you, as to the FPP, Administrator, Hope Me!
posted by eriko at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2007


That's a nightmare. I really had no idea.
posted by gordie at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2007


jonson: for a minute, I was thinking the 747s converted into houses might be okay in a tornado, particularly on the rotating pylon things. Tornadoes very rarely exceed 300mph, and those airframes are designed for much higher speeds.

But then I remembered that airplanes, as incredibly well-engineered as they are, do not stand up well to 300mph bricks. Or, for that matter, other houses.

I'm sure we could build homes that could withstand that kind of punishment, but they'd be ugly and expensive as hell.

Bunker, sweet bunker. :)
posted by Malor at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2007


The level of destruction is astounding and terrifying.
Have we got any mefites in that region?
posted by jouke at 10:03 PM on May 5, 2007


Mother Nature takes the word "bitch" to an entirely different level. Just because she can.

Funny how we forgive her though.

Perhaps because she is the only Mother Nature we have?
posted by Penny Wise at 10:05 PM on May 5, 2007


There is no way you're going to get all the homes in the Alley to be converted into domes.

I can think of one way to begin the process. It's a terrible, terrible way, but there it is.
posted by carsonb at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2007


I don't think a dome would really help. The wind from a tornado is one problem, but there's a worse one.

The center of the spout is nearly in vacuum. When it moves over a building, the air pressure inside causes the building to explode. (Of course, that requires a direct hit.)

What's needed is storm cellars, one per building. I'm a bit surprised that the Kansas building code doesn't require that. (I would think it would be the same kind of thing as California building code, which requires buildings to be quake-resistant and to have fireproof roofs.)

The destruction caused by that funnel is almost beyond imagining. It is astounding that the death toll is so low. Let's hope it doesn't rise any more.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2007


The monolithic domes are thick concrete. They can be built to various specs so I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take a whole lot to build one that could take a good number of hits from high speed heavy debris. As for public shelter, I meant after the fact...as in when everyone's home's are flattened and they dig themselves out of their basements.
posted by well_balanced at 10:17 PM on May 5, 2007


that was one big, wide honkin' twister.
posted by quonsar at 10:24 PM on May 5, 2007


..a community tornado shelter disguised as a gym. In this case, school officials opted for a steel-reinforced concrete building known as a Monolithic Dome because it was affordable and energy efficient while also meeting or exceeding the Federal Emergency Management Agency's criteria for structures that can provide "near-absolute protection" from tornadoes.
posted by well_balanced at 10:28 PM on May 5, 2007


There are actually a few good threads on Fark about this event, and I lived in Topeka for a few years (the extent of my Kansas nativeness). Like Muddler said, it takes a lot of reinforced concrete to withstand a car picked up by the wind and traveling at a hundred miles per hour or so... Plus, those types of buildings are expensive.. These are little "one stoplight" towns of less than 2000 people out in the middle of nowhere. Nobody can afford to build a concrete dome.

What they have are storm cellars, or basements. A smallish whole in the ground and good warning systems are why a whole town can disappear with only 9 dead, and you can rebuild a house and replace your meager possessions half a dozen times for the cost of a 'tornado proof' home.

I wasn't aware of groundwater issues, but still I think the answer is underground spaces rather than concrete domes... A few feet underground and you'll be fine, but anything above ground is subject to awe-inspiring destructive forces.

Still, I miss my days in Topeka. On a storm night, opening all of my windows and having enough wind blow through to blow paper around my room and shake the house... Midwest storms are pretty cool sometimes...
posted by zengargoyle at 10:36 PM on May 5, 2007


This is the first I've heard of it. Wow.

I grew up in tornado alley -- these are images ripped straight of my childhood nightmares.

.
posted by treepour at 10:40 PM on May 5, 2007


It would be interesting to see a picture of the entire area affected, including the surrounding area to get an idea of the total scale.

Either way, the pictures are really shocking. You'd see wind speeds much higher then any hurricane, I believe. An F5 tornado is ~300 miles per hour, vs 155 for a category five hurricane.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on May 5, 2007


I can understand that people who made it through this devastation might want this dome you speak of...but really? Who else?
posted by Penny Wise at 10:46 PM on May 5, 2007


The center of the spout is nearly in vacuum. When it moves over a building, the air pressure inside causes the building to explode. (Of course, that requires a direct hit.)

*rolls eyes*

1-atm of pressure is supposed to make concrete building explode? Whatever.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 PM on May 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Jeebus.

I lived most of my years in tornado alley, and I've never, *ever* seen damage on that scale. Damage as bad as that, yes -- toothpicked trees and exploded homes -- but this little burg took a direct hit... there was nothing spared. (Here's a before image.)

It'll be a long time before any of this is recovered.
posted by deCadmus at 10:57 PM on May 5, 2007


To delmoi.... yes, concrete is strong under compressive forces.. not so much so under shear forces. It's the same idea as an arch, 1000 pounds pressing down on the arch.... no problem, 100 pounds pressing up on the arch... big problem, arch failure.

Domes can take pressure from the outside just fine, but pressure from the inside is a different story. It's not much of a stretch to think that a "dome home" could easily take 5 or 6 atmospheres of pressure and not collapse, but 0 or -1 atmospheres of pressure would cause the dome to explode into a bazillion pieces...
posted by zengargoyle at 11:06 PM on May 5, 2007


um hm...dome homes. Now who among us is rushing out to contract someone to build a dome home?
posted by Penny Wise at 11:17 PM on May 5, 2007


The center of the spout is nearly in vacuum.

No. The center of the funnel of an F4 tornado has air pressure 10% lower than the surrounding air. This has been directly measured.

When it moves over a building, the air pressure inside causes the building to explode.

Even a moment's casual research will indicate that this simply is not true.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:17 PM on May 5, 2007


May their lives rebound quickly and may they not be defined by tragedy.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 PM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


who among us is rushing out to contract someone to build a dome home?

The Greenburg city officials would be my guess. Clearly Greenburg is not about to be transformed into a giant Epcot Center but the point here is that a properly designed reinforced concrete dome for high value structures makes a ton of sense, especially if you are starting from scratch and have some Federal $ headed your way. If you structural engineers know something sinister about dome engineering you should probably let FEMA know straight away as they seem to be sanctioning them as Cat 5 tornado protection.
posted by well_balanced at 11:25 PM on May 5, 2007


A perfect vacuum (assuming 1 atmosphere on the other side) only "exerts" 15 pounds per square inch. And the centre of a tornado doesn't come even close to 30 inches of mercury. 100-150 millibars difference between the outside and the inside at most is what I've heard though direct measurements are few for obvious reasons.

Tornadoes don't even cause stick built houses to "explode" let alone a reinforced concrete dome. The damage is strictly from wind speed and flying debris. A 300 mph wind exerts 400+ pounds per square inch from wind pressure alone; vastly dwarfing the effect of any hypothetical pressure differential.
posted by Mitheral at 11:35 PM on May 5, 2007


Mother Nature takes the word "bitch" to an entirely different level. Just because she can.

Funny how we forgive her though.

Perhaps because she is the only Mother Nature we have?


Um, talking about a phenomenon of weather here, not a person...
posted by jokeefe at 11:39 PM on May 5, 2007


That's insane.

My thoughts go to all those who have lost in this tragedy.

.
posted by cholly at 11:45 PM on May 5, 2007


1-atm of pressure is supposed to make concrete building explode? Whatever.

Atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch. If the building is a dome 20 feet across, then a pressure differential of one atmosphere would result in a force of more than 330 tons -- pushing upwards, which means that it would be tensile strength trying to hold it.

If the differential is 10%, it's still 33 tons.

Concrete has superb compressive strength but its tensile strength is nothing like as good. Even with steel reinforcing, it would have a very difficult time holding that much pressure.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:53 PM on May 5, 2007


Dome survivability specs. Please review.
posted by well_balanced at 12:02 AM on May 6, 2007


Holy mother of god, that's an astounding path of destruction. Has anyone heard if a major aid organization is collecting donations of clothes, toys, whatnot, yet?

I hope that the death count stays that low, and that everyone else is able to be rescued safely.
posted by dejah420 at 12:09 AM on May 6, 2007


What's needed is storm cellars, one per building. I'm a bit surprised that the Kansas building code doesn't require that.

Oklahoma code doesn't require it, and they get far more tornadoes in a year. Even after the Moore F5 in '99 there's still no requirement for a storm shelter.

And for most tornadoes, your chances of survival are very high so long as you get into the most central interior room in your house. I have relatives who rode out the Edmond tornado in 1986 in their linen closet. Tornado did a number on their house, but they got out with superficial injuries.

F5s, though, the only way you're surviving that is if you're underground. Greensburg, Moore, Jarrell, you only saw concrete slabs left.

Grew up in Oklahoma, and we never had a fraidy hole. (Yes, that's what they're called, fraidy holes.) We also never had a basement. And aside from being put in the bathtub at 3am a few times with a mattress at the ready, I only saw one tornado my entire life.

And as for all the dome-lovers, honestly, who wants an entire community of 6" thick concrete dome housing? You could certainly build a safe room in your house (with thick reinforced concrete/masonry walls). That's all you need to survive.
posted by dw at 12:09 AM on May 6, 2007


Me, I think I'd be going for a big ol' hole in the earth.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:13 AM on May 6, 2007


I'm too lazy to do the math so for the sake of argument I'll let your numbers stand Steven (though with a dome it's outwards not upwards).

However even assuming the 33 tons of pressure as soon as a window blows out or a door pulls off it's hinges *poof* no pressure differential.

Besides even common 3500 psi concrete unreinforced will handle tension loads of 280-420 psi. The shear strength is only 5% but that still leaves quite a margin at 175 psi. Steel reinforcement is going to drive those numbers much higher.

As dw says a storm cellar is best (because it's simple) but it quite possible to build a plain reinforced concrete block room that will be proof against all but the most freakish of tornado damage. I've even read about waffle style ICFs used successfully for this purpose.
posted by Mitheral at 12:17 AM on May 6, 2007


Well-balanced: I do not find those "survivability" specs reassuring. That's because he's ignoring what I think is a critical factor: the Bernoulli principle.

That's what makes aircraft wings work. Air moves faster over the top, and thus there's less pressure on top. The differential between bottom and top pushes the wing, and the aircraft, upwards.

A dome on the ground with a couple hundred mph wind traveling over it is going to have a considerable Bernoulli-induced pressure differential between inside and outside, with the inside being higher than the outside.

And it would be tensile strength and shear strength trying to hold it in, not compressive strength. Concrete has terrible tensile and shear strength.

This effect would be at it's strongest on the top of the dome. The failure mode I'm concerned about would be the top of the dome blowing out.

He doesn't discuss this problem.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:27 AM on May 6, 2007


Un-freaking-believable. The May 3, 1999 F5 (maybe even F6) that ripped through Moore/MWC stands in my mind as the most remarkable weather event in modern America. The power of such a storm is absolutely awesome. And now, sadly, it looks like Greensburg might surpass Moore in terms of devastation.

Those aerial pics are mind-boggling.
posted by davidmsc at 1:17 AM on May 6, 2007


I happen to have personal experience with the potential consequencs of the Bernoulli principle.

When I was in second grade, my parents sold our house in NE Portland and bought a lot near Lake Grove. We lived on that lot in a trailer house for a year while my father, my older brother, my grandfather, my uncle, and various family friends worked to build the house on that site that my dad had designed.

We paid someone to come in with a bulldozer and dig out the basement. We did all the concrete for the basement ourselves. (I helped, as much as a 3rd grader can help.) We covered it over with the main floor. We put up walls, and hung trusses on top, and covered that all over with plywood. We were just about to put in the interior partitions...

...when a freak typhoon called Frieda blew into the Portland area. In this part of the country it's known as the "Columbus Day Storm" because it struck on October 12, 1962.

The roof of our house, covered nicely with plywood, was close enough to being a wing shape as it needed to be. High winds picked it up and carried it about a hundred feet before dumping it on the ground.

We had to tear it apart to recover all the lumber, and then do all the walls and the roof again. It cost us months.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:25 AM on May 6, 2007


On concrete structures surviving a tornado like this, bernouilli or no; see the 7th photograph. It seems to be a concrete silo that is totally unharmed.
posted by jouke at 1:42 AM on May 6, 2007


Holy shit.


I heard the story on the radio, but those pictures... I had no idea.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:48 AM on May 6, 2007


That's what they get for not believing in evolution. Change those textbooks back.
posted by sourwookie at 1:53 AM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the Hallam, NE in '04. 'Course, it was just an F4, though it was the widest tornado ever recorded. The town was completely flattened. Similarly, their grain elevator survived (though the twisted metal stairs did not).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:11 AM on May 6, 2007


Those photos are shocking.

amyms, did the tornadoes impact your area in Kansas? How are you?

So sorry for those who lost their lives, their families and also those who were injured, lost their homes and possessions. It wasn't 'just' 9 people who died, it was an entire town impacted, the whole community. What was their town is basically gone.

According to Wikipedia about Greensburg: "A large tornado reported to be a mile wide struck the city at 9:38PM CDT on May 4, 2007, severely damaging approximately 95% of the town."

A tornado a mile wide. yikes.

"There were 730 households out of which 23.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them...The median income for a household in the city was $28,438, and the median income for a family was $39,188. Males had a median income of $28,426 versus $20,875 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,054. About 8.4% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line".

A local history site, the tourist information site about Greensburg.

An image of the tornado: "Survivors spoke of only 20 minutes warning that disaster was imminent."

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posted by nickyskye at 4:22 AM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


How does this town get rebuilt? There are no schools, no stores and no businesses anymore. I can't imagine the process. How do people live there day to day to rebuild? Wouldn't you just take your insurance money and go somewhere else that has the infrastructure and services that you need? As a business, are you willing to re-invest in a city that may not return? The outloook seems grim.
posted by taz at 4:26 AM on May 6, 2007


Jose Peraza said he was driving his oil rig into town when he heard the tornado warning sirens and pulled over to escape driving hail. He hid with several other people in a convenience store freezer.

He said the storm ripped the side off the freezer and when he came out, the twister had chucked his truck -- with 40,000 pounds of oil -- "like nothing."

posted by nickyskye at 4:49 AM on May 6, 2007


.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:55 AM on May 6, 2007


seems to be a concrete silo that is totally unharmed.
That silo may be full of grain, or something, but in any case, it is built to withstand the tensile stress of grain storage, so it has very strong steel reinforcement inbedded to keep it in one piece as the weight of the grain presses out. (Many of the old farm silos were built of stacked blocks with the reinforcing rings on the outside.)

Which basically goes to show that it is possible to built a concrete structure that will withstand a tornado, with all due deference to Steven C. DB's calculations. Keep in mind also, the air pressure in a tornado is not zero (although nobody seems to know what it is, it has never been measured), so the outward pressure is not one full atmosphere; buildings have leaks that relieve pressure; the concrete has significant weight that also resists outward pressures.
posted by beagle at 5:07 AM on May 6, 2007


Reports elsewhere indicate this town had a population of 1500; it is 95% destroyed.

Greensburg trivia: it is the home of the world's largest hand-dug well, 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter, completed in 1888.
posted by beagle at 5:15 AM on May 6, 2007


Growing-up in Indiana, I've seen my share of tornadoes. I've watched the developing funnels stream over my home, only to form and touch-down a couple of miles away.

It's always difficult to relate to anyone who doesn't live in a tornado-prone area just how incredibly overwhelming and destructive these events are. Until Greensburg, I always pointed them to the Palm Sunday outbreak that hit us in '65.

When you live in tornado-prone areas, all you can really do is prepare to somehow physically survive...and just know that, if you get hit, you will lose just about everything material you have.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:18 AM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


A lot of those houses look like they were built entirely out of wood. Is that common in tornado zones?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2007


I'm shocked by the devastation. I have been lucky thus far to have never witnessed a tornado, they're not common occurrences in Ontario (although last summer...) and have only been exposed to them through TV. These photos are an eye opener for me. I can't imagine the terror and devastation felt by the survivors. My thoughts go out to them today. May the dead rest in peace and the living recover swiftly.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:05 AM on May 6, 2007


nickyskye, that looks to be a stock tornado image they dug up somewhere. eyewitnesses, among them an off-duty weather service employee, saw the funnel outside greensburg, and described it as a wedge type. the wedge funnel is very fat, and very wide at the ground, as evidenced by the destruction path, up to a half-mile wide.

also, LOLCITYBOYDOMEFREAKS and the "liberal" Zoning Laws Should Protect Us From Tornados crowd.

also, heh heh, he said "FEMA".
posted by quonsar at 6:27 AM on May 6, 2007


This is not a singular event. We're only 10 years out from the 1997 Jarrell, Texas FS tornado.
posted by spitbull at 6:28 AM on May 6, 2007


Addendum: by saying so, I mean in no way to minimize the tragedy in Kansas.

It's not a problem that there is political will (or sufficient resources) to "solve." Nor is there much cultural imperative to "do something about it" in the rural communities of the Great Plains. Stoicism is in the water there.
posted by spitbull at 6:39 AM on May 6, 2007


If that was Friday and this is only Sunday, I assume that no one could have possibly gotten food or water to them yet.
posted by DU at 6:42 AM on May 6, 2007


The center of the spout is nearly in vacuum. When it moves over a building, the air pressure inside causes the building to explode. (Of course, that requires a direct hit.)

*rolls eyes*

1-atm of pressure is supposed to make concrete building explode? Whatever.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 PM on May 5


When I was a kid, growing up in Ohio where we frequently had tornado and Lake Erie waterspout alerts, we were always told to open all the windows to prevent the building from exploding because of the sudden drop in air pressure.

It was a very widespread belief. However, it ain't true, although the experts who explain this do a lousy job. They like to say that the danger of flying glass from standing near the window is worse than other dangers, and rarely make clear that the house isn't going to explode. I do recall pictures from my childhood of the terrible damage from a series of tornadoes that hit Lorain, Ohio, in 1924 and many of the houses did, indeed, look as if they'd exploded.
I do think, though, that something is happening, that tornados are bigger or wider or something because in recent years, they seem to be flattening whole blocks, whereas in earlier years, they seemed to take down one house while leaving another practically untouched.
posted by etaoin at 7:05 AM on May 6, 2007


If that was Friday and this is only Sunday, I assume that no one could have possibly gotten food or water to them yet.
On the contrary. Help arrived on-scene within hours (or, at the very least, by the next day) including, it seems, insurance agents eager to cut checks.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:07 AM on May 6, 2007


some facts then ... 235 homes in greensburg were under 50k, 180 were from 50-100k ... and a mere handful were more than that

i can't seem to find specific information but it's my recollection that a full basement for a small house would cost 20k ... which adds quite a bit to the price of a home
posted by pyramid termite at 7:15 AM on May 6, 2007


I've spent a good deal of my life in Tornado Alley. Its true, every few years a town will get hit hard or even "wiped off the map" like this poor place in Kansas. The news media gets whipped up into a frenzy and the death pr0n is broadcast wide and far. Then, while the rest of of us shudder a little the next time the wind comes up, the unfortunate people that no longer have homes just slowly go about the work of cleaning and rebuilding. And yes, they rebuild their houses just like they did the first time; with wood.

People out on The Plains just aren't that worried about tornadoes. Its a big place out here and even a mile-wide beast of a twister is just a little pin scratch on the landscape. The warning systems are really good too. That's why nine people losing their lives in a storm that really looks like an atomic bomb site is still shocking. I'm sure there were tornado watches for hours before this storm hit.

My bigger point was to comment on how silly it is to see this thread contemplate a better way for us to live out here. I can just imagine the comical scene where some stereotypical city-slicker walks into a stereotypical downtown cafe in Kansas and tells a bunch of stereotypical small-town fogeys about this idea to rebuild with concrete domes.

You know, it might just be better to live in underground caves. Or better yet, how bout we all just move and "you" can have it as a Buffalo Commons.
posted by limmer at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


oh, and wood construction is very common across the u s ... it's prevalent in my town, which has been known to have tornados
posted by pyramid termite at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2007


After a night's sleep and being less bleary-eyed, I realize now that I was not seeing what I thought I was seeing last night.

My God. Terrible. I feel like a shit for my upthread snark.
posted by sourwookie at 7:21 AM on May 6, 2007


My god, there's an awful lot of reactionary, halfwit posts in this thread.
posted by intermod at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2007


dw said: And as for all the dome-lovers, honestly, who wants an entire community of 6" thick concrete dome housing? You could certainly build a safe room in your house (with thick reinforced concrete/masonry walls). That's all you need to survive.

We live at the tail end of Tornado Alley in north Texas. Tornadoes rarely touch down here, and almost never with the ferocity that one sees in Kansas and Oklahoma, but we still have the air raid sirens and emergency plans and whatnot. When I built my house, I had a "tornado" room included in the plans. (Because the water table is too high for basements in this neck of the woods.) Despite having such a room, after seeing the absolute destruction in Greensburg, I'm not sure a tornado room would have made that much difference. The place was flattened as though a celestial steamroller passed through.

All that said, I really want to do something to help these people who are going to have to rebuild. Has anyone heard of any local or grassroots organizations that are accepting donations or workers? After the last couple of disasters, I've lost faith in the Red Cross.
posted by dejah420 at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2007


After the last couple of disasters, I've lost faith in the Red Cross.
You really shouldn't have. Understand that Katrina was (and still is) an immense clusterfuck, largely wrought by a handful of idiots. In fact, donating to the Red Cross is probably still the best way to directly help the survivors.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2007


As dw says a storm cellar is best (because it's simple) but it quite possible to build a plain reinforced concrete block room that will be proof against all but the most freakish of tornado damage. I've even read about waffle style ICFs used successfully for this purpose.

Some engineers at Texas Tech have been working for years on how to build an effective in-house shelter, and what they found in the end was that the most important thing was to reinforce the walls against flying debris. There's this video they show on the DiscoversciencehilteryplanetLC of them launching 2x4s into an unreinforced masonry wall at 200+ mph and seeing the boards go right through the wall.

The walls of the in-house shelter appear to be more important than the roof. Interestingly, one of the really interesting things they've learned over the years is that a well-built fallout shelter (i.e. the ones with thick walls they pushed in the 50s-60s) is perfect for riding out most tornadoes.

The May 3, 1999 F5 (maybe even F6) that ripped through Moore/MWC

OK, pedantic time -- there is no F6. The Fujita scale only goes to 5.

An image of the tornado: "Survivors spoke of only 20 minutes warning that disaster was imminent."

50 years ago, survivors would speak of having little or no warning. And the death tolls were high.

People needed more warning that tornadoes were coming. Two things happened. One was the NSSL being established in Norman. The other was TV station KWTV installing its own radar in 1959.

By the early 1980s, KWTV had Doppler, and Gary Shore in Tulsa was warning people of a tornado in southeast Tulsa about 5 minutes before it hit. Now warnings are up to 20 minutes, though the early regional warnings can come a couple days in advance.

When I was a kid in Tulsa, one of the local weathermen spent five minutes of the newscast talking to a lion puppet. He didn't have a degree in meteorology. He saw the writing on the wall and retired in the early 80s. Now, every TV station in Oklahoma has at least one Doppler radar, and weather at some stations is a bigger part of the news budget than news reporting.
posted by dw at 8:19 AM on May 6, 2007



All that energy concentrated into a point... photo.
posted by Huplescat at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2007


An excellent tornado FAQ.

Map showing chances of a "violent tornado -- F4" in days per millenium.

The epicenter appears to be somewhere around McAlester, OK.
posted by beagle at 8:24 AM on May 6, 2007


It seems to be a concrete silo that is totally unharmed.

Could people live in grain silos? There's some post-industrialist appeal. Basements would be more practical. But like Muddler said, slab foundations are cheapest.

For regions that have non-linear ecologies (ie flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, tornado prone) the civic costs of investing in long-term relationships with disaster events are always a bit too high for the transient and resilient populous.

So shoud city slickers create a basement fund for limmer? (with a budget for more aerial death pr0n?) They're retrofitting San Francisco, but by bit. You can't build with wood in coastal Florida. But these are places with money flowing in. It seems like it's a local economic choice whether to depend on Infrastructural or Social forms of resilience.
posted by ioesf at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2007


OMG

.
posted by caddis at 8:34 AM on May 6, 2007


I guess we now know what's wrong with Kansas.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2007


The epicenter appears to be somewhere around McAlester, OK.

Actually, looks like it's east of Pauls Valley and north of Wynnewood.

(McAlester is where my mom grew up.)
posted by dw at 8:52 AM on May 6, 2007


My bigger point was to comment on how silly it is to see this thread contemplate a better way for us to live out here. I can just imagine the comical scene where some stereotypical city-slicker walks into a stereotypical downtown cafe in Kansas and tells a bunch of stereotypical small-town fogeys about this idea to rebuild with concrete domes.

i'm having difficulty seeing your point. i'm not a fan of the dome idea, but are you saying that people where you live don't care about tornadoes because they can just rebuild and rebuilding everything you lost isn't that big a deal? or because they don't happen often enough to bother protecting yourself? i'm not trying to snark. i just read and reread your comment a bunch of times and all i can pull out of it is "tornado protection is for pussies," and i can't help but think that's not what you're trying to get across.
posted by shmegegge at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2007


dw said OK, pedantic time -- there is no F6. The Fujita scale only goes to 5.

No. The Fujita scale goes to 12.
"The F12 level only begins at wind speeds exceeding Mach 1.0 (or around 738 mph at -3°C), so the probability of a tornado having winds of this speed is infinitesimally small. Could a tornado be an F6? Yes, however, the Fujita scale is based on wind speeds that are estimated from the damage the tornado produced (because no one has been able to stick an anemometer into a tornado to measure the actual wind speeds). Since the winds of an F5 tornado (up to 319 mph) are sufficient to completely destroy just about everything in its path, an F6 really wouldn't do much more damage than that, and therefore could not be definitively labeled as an F6. When accurate measurements of wind speed inside an extreme tornado are eventually obtained, it is not impossible that they may exceed 319 mph." NOAA FAQ
posted by gemmy at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2007


I lived in Salina, Kansas when the big tornado that hit Topeka in 1966. Later on, I remember my aunt and uncle--Bert and Eva Funk, for the record--from Talmage talking about it to my mom and saying, "Yeah, well, we were loading up the pick up with groceries, blankets, lumber and tools when we heard on the radio that they had the relief handled and didn't want anyone showing up on their own." Which didn't sit quite right with them. They lived outside of Abilene and were about to drive 80 odd miles to help out strangers in the big city because that was how it was done when they were growing up.
posted by y2karl at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2007


When I was a litttle kid, my GGrandma used to tell us about being raised in a soddy in far-western MO. After our F5s last year, the idea sounds better and better.
posted by cookie-k at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2007


Concrete has superb compressive strength but its tensile strength is nothing like as good.

Which is why almost every road bridge in America has fallen down, and every highway in America has shattered into little bits after the first heat-cold cycle. Wait, what?

Yes, concrete is lousy in shear, and worse in tension. If only there was some miracle material that we could put in concrete that would make it stronger in shear and tension.

Oh, yeah, it's called "steel". The combination is called "reinforced concrete." Anymore that bears more load than a sidewalk is made of reinforced concrete, which, while not as strong in tension as pure steel, does a fine job of handling tension, shear and compression, and has made lots of bridges, roads, and buildings -- including 311 South Wacker Drive, 900+ feet of concrete.

Funny that, in those nightmare pictures above, there's one tall building that stands amongst the wreckage -- the one that's made of cylinders of reinforced concrete -- thick, to hold up the tall cylinder.

See, what kills building is the drag. Take big flat wall, subject to 400mph dead on wind, calculate force. Boggle at *very large number*. Wonder why that much house is left. Wonder how far that picture of Grandma on the other side of the wall flew? (Hint: The USPS returned it for lack of postage.)

Now take hemisphere or cylinder. Model similarly. Note force, while still pretty high, is vastly less -- so much less that reinforced concrete can handle the load.

That's how domes and silos survive. It's a combination of the concrete's mass and the fact that high winds and impacting cars are putting force into compression, into an arch -- the exact ideal shape for concrete to resist impact and force.

Thus leading to the final point -- the main forces on spherical or cylindrical building in a tornado are compression. The little bit of tension that the lower pressure at the center of a tornado has can be ignored -- they'll be vastly overwhelmed by the compression caused by the high winds and scattered Fords.
posted by eriko at 9:15 AM on May 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


After the last couple of disasters, I've lost faith in the Red Cross.
You really shouldn't have. Understand that Katrina was (and still is) an immense clusterfuck, largely wrought by a handful of idiots. In fact, donating to the Red Cross is probably still the best way to directly help the survivors.


As a Katrina survivor, I can directly attest to that. The Red Cross was faster, better, more helpful, and less of a hassle than FEMA, and has my enduring gratitude and support as a result. They provided much needed assistance exactly when it was needed. FEMA, by comparison, was nothing but a colossal pain in the ass.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:19 AM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


i just read and reread your comment a bunch of times and all i can pull out of it is "tornado protection is for pussies,"

it's a question of cost effectiveness and affordability ... beagle's map link actually shows tornado days where a tornado will pass within 25 miles of a point ... that's 625 sq mi

in the area of greensburg, it tends to be 30-35 tornados per millenium hitting in that 625 sq mile area

this page gives average f4 tornado lengths and widths for illinois f4 tornados ... (and we'll just go with that for the sake of argument, although it would be better with kansas stats)

average length = 20 miles
average width = 1200 feet 1/4 mile
average footprint = 5 sq mi

35 tornado incidents per 1000 years x 5 sq mi means that out of those 625 sq mi only 170 would actually be hit by an f4 tornado

so the odds are that a wooden house will be hit by a tornado there in 1000 years are a little better than 1/4 ... so termites, or fire, or wear and tear, or people changing their minds are more likely to destroy that house than a tornado is

therefore, the people in kansas aren't crazy for not wanting to add 20k basements to the price of a 50k house ... or for building with wood ... or for living there

the poor people of greensburg are really, really unlucky ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2007


uh, 175 sq mi would be hit by a tornado ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:29 AM on May 6, 2007


Oh, one thing about why those silos survived. You do know that silos explode, right? That the dust from grain can catch fire can blow up a silo?

That's why grain silos are highly reinforced and built so the explosion pops the top.

IOW, of course the silos would survive an F5, since they're already built to prevent blowing a couple of years of flaming crop yield and rebar all over the town.
posted by dw at 9:35 AM on May 6, 2007


If flying debris is the major cause of destruction, the town itself is the source of its own devastation; your neighbors house supplies the teeth with which the tornado eats yours.

What about a building code that minimizes the amount of material a tornado can wield against you? Things like underground power because of the danger of power poles, tiedowns or hardened shelters for cars, cutting down tree species that tend to be uprooted or break off branches in the high wind, papery walls that peel away from enduring steel frames which can easily be 'repapered', a strong core in the house to which people and animals can retreat with valuables, in conjunction with drills, laws against leaving potentialy destructive junk piled around outside, etcetera.
posted by jamjam at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2007


thanks for posting that picture, Huplescat - amazing illustration of the power of these things. Also interesting discussion folks are having about what to do in the face of such madness - although
a tornado a mile wide? Boggles the mind.

Sad headline from the main Kansas.com site - "Greensburg is gone; its future, unknown". Indeed a '.' hardly seems like enough.
posted by rmm at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2007


I live in Kansas; my best friend grew up in Greensburg, and her parents still live there. I can pick out her childhood home on the aerial photos, at least, what's left of it. People got away with their lives, because "only 20 minutes" is a lot of warning time for people used to tornados. Everyone who lived there has been evacuated to neighboring towns. My friends' parents spent Friday night in a shelter, then were picked up by her sister on Saturday morning, as they lost their vehicles as well as their home.

For people asking about how to help, all the things I've seen are local - Kansas Dillons grocery stores, for example, are letting you add donations to your total at checkout. I'd guess the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are your best bets.

For those talking about building codes and concrete homes and whatnot, well, most of these homes weren't new construction by any means, and that's true in many many small Midwest towns. No one is going to go back and retrofit 1920's era farm homes with tornado protection, especially when the median income hovers in the low 30's for most families. That's enough to get by on out there, but not a lot left for extras.

There is footage from the ground on most of the local media outlets' websites; and while you're there, you can see that it's been a rough weekend, weather-wise, for a huge chunk of the state.
posted by donnagirl at 10:45 AM on May 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Have we got any mefites in that region?

It doesn't appear so. I briefly changed my lat/lon to Greensburg, KS; no Mefites were listed as being nearby. There are some Mefites in Topeka that show up in the Google Earth KMZ file for Mefites.
posted by WCityMike at 10:46 AM on May 6, 2007


What limmer and pyramid termite and a very few others have said: living in tornado country, your chances of being hit by one are still extremely tiny. There are many, many more likely threats. Building codes for tornado safety would be a waste of money which could be better spent on other safety.

The comparison to earthquakes is spurious because without codes structures will not survive the mild earthquakes which are far more frequent and, additionally, when a major earthquake happens it happens over a large area with massive devastation.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2007


I grew up in Garden City, KS (about 100 miles from Greensburg). What donnagirl said is exactly correct, the houses are old. The residents in KS are least doing something right if devastation of this magnitude can hit and so few fatalities occur.

Living in Kansas let me see some of the most beautiful and dangerous weather.
posted by ozomatli at 11:12 AM on May 6, 2007


Ethereal Bligh writes "The comparison to earthquakes is spurious because without codes structures will not survive the mild earthquakes which are far more frequent and, additionally, when a major earthquake happens it happens over a large area with massive devastation."

Also, tornadoes almost always come with some warning; you can see the weather coming. Since there's no warning for an earthquake (state-of-the-art seismology can maybe provide a couple of minutes), you can't rely on evacuation out of the area or to a few hardened structures. Every structure needs to be hardened, because every structure is likely to be occupied when the earthquake hits.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2007


On Kansascity.com there is a video interview (doesn't work in firefox) with a couple who survived the storm. I can only hope to be as articulate and composed if I lived through something like that. I hope their town gets rebuilt.
posted by maxwelton at 1:06 PM on May 6, 2007


That's what they get for not believing in evolution. Change those textbooks back.

After a night's sleep and being less bleary-eyed, I realize now that I was not seeing what I thought I was seeing last night.

My God. Terrible. I feel like a shit for my upthread snark.


No, no. I think you almost had it. I think the Robertson-esque connect could be emphasized more. Then its being inappropriate and mean falls into place.

Maybe:

This is science punishing Kansas for not allowing it in schools anymore.
posted by Bokononist at 1:08 PM on May 6, 2007


So I'm the only one wondering what a sea kayak is doing in the middle of Kansas then?

Tornadoes scare the hell out of me. If I ever bought a house in that area the first thing I'd do was dig my own fraidy hole and i'd probably hide in it every time I heard a loud noise. (Actually I'd probably bury a short culvert right enxt to the back door and use that as a shelter, I bet that'd work great).
posted by fshgrl at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2007


So I'm the only one wondering what a sea kayak is doing in the middle of Kansas then?

I should think so. The rest of us are all well-aware of the exploits of those rugged, crazy individuals who "ride the tornado." The guy who owns that kayak was obviously on vacation, or he'd surely have taken advantage of this great tornado.

I think steel cargo containers would make about the best possible shelter. Cheap, waterproof (or easy to waterproof), strong, just dig a hole, drop 'er in, and bury it.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2007


fshgrl "So I'm the only one wondering what a sea kayak is doing in the middle of Kansas then?"

That's a sea kayak? It looks like my dad's flat-water kayak, which was used for lakes. The sea kayaks I've seen had open tops (halfway between a kayak and a boat) so that you could easily roll out if capsized by a wave.
posted by Bugbread at 2:06 PM on May 6, 2007


Wikipedia to the rescue: Apparently, there are a few major types of kayaks: whitewater, for rapids, surf, for surfin', racing, for racing, outrigger, which has outrigs, and then "sea kayak", which just means "kayak other than the above". They're also known as "touring kayaks". So the name "sea kayak" is a bit misleading. Should probably be "multipurpose kayak".

Google Maps shows a few lakes around, not huge by any means, but Cheney Resorvoir is decent at 10 miles long, and it's only a 1.5 hour car drive. Considering that once a year or two my dad would drive out to Lake Caddoe for a kayaking/camping trip, and that's a 5 hour drive, having a kayak in Greensburg doesn't seem entirely bizarre.
posted by Bugbread at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2007


You know, the evolution snark was probably a bit much, but sourwookie has a point. When it happens to NYC or New Orleans, the Godcon-artists are all over the airwaves saying natural destruction is the price America pays for (insert your favorite form of immorality from a Xtian point of view here) . . . .

When it happens to God-fearing (three churches destroyed) Greensburg, Kansas, it's just that the Lord works in mysterious ways, right?

I'd like to hear Pat Robertson explain this one. Scratch that . . . I'd like to see him retire to Haiti as a missionary.

When awful things happen to innocent people, it's never appropriate to justify it. Ever. And that includes New Orleanians and Iraqis.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 PM on May 6, 2007


spitbull writes "When it happens to God-fearing (three churches destroyed) Greensburg, Kansas, it's just that the Lord works in mysterious ways, right?

"I'd like to hear Pat Robertson explain this one."


"My friend says neapolitan tastes better than vanilla. I'd like to hear him tell me which flavour tastes better."
posted by Bugbread at 3:20 PM on May 6, 2007


I was just in Oklahoma for the first time last week & there were a couple of really bad storms while we were driving to/from Oklahoma City & Tulsa. The whole sky was black, and at one point I saw a tiny funnel cloud, my first one. I could really see how a tornado could just wipe things out & I really learned a lot from that. In the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel, they even had a tent card in my room with safety tips, saying in big letters "HEY Y'ALL, IT'S TWISTER SEASON! Yeah, I'll confess, it was a novelty for me so I stole it to show to my friends here in earthquake country.

Speaking of which, people always tell me how they'd never live in California because there are too many earthquakes. But according to that little stolen tent card (which is in front of me as I type this), Oklahoma has an average of 52 tornadoes a year & Texas averages 125. I haven't felt a bad earthquake in 13 years -- knock on wood -- so I'm thinking that living in tornado country sounds a lot worse.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:27 PM on May 6, 2007


Living in Tornado Alley = Little sympathy from me.
posted by clearly at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2007


C'mon, clearly, as has been pointed out, the odds are pretty much in your favor, living there...are there is work to be done around there--someone has to do it.

In this case, the dice just fell the wrong way.
posted by maxwelton at 3:42 PM on May 6, 2007


miss lynnster writes "I haven't felt a bad earthquake in 13 years -- knock on wood -- so I'm thinking that living in tornado country sounds a lot worse."

The dynamic is just different, I suspect. Big earthquakes are rare, but affect big areas. Big tornadoes are common, but affect little areas. So in earthquake country, you've got little earthquakes, and you think "Good thing that wasn't a biggun, this house would have flattened like a pancake (or whatever)", and in tornado country, you've got a big tornado that hits clear across the state, and you think "good thing that didn't hit this town, this house would have blown away like a deck of cards".

Rephrased:
When an earthquaker sees tornado devastation, they think "living in tornado country must suck".
When a tornadoer hears that feeling a tremor isn't at all uncommon, they think "living in earthquake country must suck".
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 PM on May 6, 2007


The sea kayaks I've seen had open tops (halfway between a kayak and a boat) so that you could easily roll out if capsized by a wave.

I've never heard of such a thing. All sea kayaks I've seen, in stores and in use, have been closed-top, specifically because the last thing you want to do in the ocean in bail: rather, you want to (eskimo) roll.

AFAIKIMOYMMVBBQ.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:09 PM on May 6, 2007


quonsar, you're right, as usual. :)

That must have been a stock image. The National Ledger site , says they link to a video of the Greensburg tornado (I can't access it, server too busy). This is a single image of the tornado from that video.

A stills photo compilation -with Gospel music soundtrack- of the ground level damage Google video and another image of the Greensburg tornado. Video of Greensburg, Kansas tornado radar images. Video of the aftermath on the ground: raw footage. Aerial raw footage. Video of another wedge tornado.
posted by nickyskye at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2007


five fresh fish writes "All sea kayaks I've seen, in stores and in use, have been closed-top, specifically because the last thing you want to do in the ocean in bail: rather, you want to (eskimo) roll."

There's a picture of what I'm talking about here. Apparently, they're now called "sit on top" kayaks, and wikipedia indicates they're mainly used for scuba divers and fishing. Back in my day (20 or so years ago) they were used for surfing, because it's easier to just bail than eskimo roll. Also, they were more of a fun-oriented kayak, because you could go out into the surf without being able to do eskimo rolls or any other skilled techniques: you could go out on a sit-on-top kayak as long as you were able to paddle a boat.

Course, back in my day, they were called "scuppers" more often than "sea kayaks", because I think there were so few brands that the brand name was used as the product name (like when people called photocopying "Xeroxing" because pretty much all the copiers were made by Xerox). (That's just a guess about the origin of "scupper", though)

From what I gather, "sea kayak" now refers to kayaking long distances in the sea, not surfing near shore, so my nomenclature is probably all messed up too. I guess the only really valid point I'm bringing to the table is that, in modern nomenclature, "sea kayak" refers to kayaks used in both the sea and in flat water, and the kayak in that picture is definitely quite usable for flat-water, so seeing it in Kansas isn't really all that startling. Seeing a whitewater kayak in Kansas, well, that would probably be a whole nother thing.
posted by Bugbread at 4:21 PM on May 6, 2007


I've been in a lot of bad earthquakes and I know of people who've had cars crushed and stuff... but I've never lost all of my earthly possessions and the building they were housed in, as well as every existing structure in the entire area surrounding it. Might I had that my number one fear on this earth is earthquakes -- I HATE them. But I'm starting to think I would hate tornadoes even more.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:43 PM on May 6, 2007


"Survivors spoke of only 20 minutes warning that disaster was imminent."

The word "only" does not belong in that sentence. 20 minutes of tornado warning (meaning "tornado on the ground" is a HUGE amount of time. Sirens did go off well before the tornado in Greensburg. The fatalities from this storm could have been tremendous if not for the excellent work of the Dodge City NWS.
posted by spock at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2007


Here is an early shot of the tornado that became the F5 that hit Greensburg (from the Twister Sisters. The tornado on the left would shortly become the 1.4 mile-wide wedge. You see a second vortex on the ground, to the right and a third funnel (apparently not on the ground) to the far right. You can see how wide the wedge became in this 1:30 video from storm chasers Dick McGowan, Darin Brunin, & Derek Shaffer.
posted by spock at 5:23 PM on May 6, 2007


"I've lost faith in the Red Cross."

That's too bad, because they're already in the area providing services to the affected.

On a side note, I'd like to see legislation somewhere that would say "Bosses, let employees that volunteer with disaster services groups have the damn time off to help respond to disasters" instead of having HR say "You don't have enough vacation time, if you leave, we'll consider your job abandoned."

Blah.
posted by drstein at 5:35 PM on May 6, 2007


God, youtube should just kill comments. Some are OK but most are just mind-numbingly awful.
posted by maxwelton at 5:50 PM on May 6, 2007


Speaking of which, people always tell me how they'd never live in California because there are too many earthquakes. But according to that little stolen tent card (which is in front of me as I type this), Oklahoma has an average of 52 tornadoes a year & Texas averages 125. I haven't felt a bad earthquake in 13 years -- knock on wood -- so I'm thinking that living in tornado country sounds a lot worse.

I grew up in Tulsa, and with the Oil Bust a whole bunch of friends and their parents bailed out of Oklahoma. A few went to California; when they came back they talked about how much safer they felt in CA with the earthquakes vs. tornadoes. My parents just didn't get it.

And now, living in a place that gets a significant quake about every 30 years (I was here for the Nisqually quake), I'm really 50-50 on the issue. Oklahoma has a dozen F3 or higher funnels a year and an F5 every other year. But the impact is local. You don't want to be in the path of the storm, but even an F5 only offers at worst a 2 mile wide path of destruction. 95% of metro OKC received no damage from the Moore F5. OTOH, a 7.0 on the Seattle Fault would mean everyone in metro Seattle would be facing major damage and disruption. And if/when the subduction quake on the Juan de Fuca plate comes, there won't be much left of this town.

I lived in Tulsa for 18 years, saw one funnel ('74 Brookside), and was thrown in the bathtub with the mattress two other times ('75 Harvey Young, '81 SE Tulsa). Never got hit by a tornado. I've lived in Seattle since '95 and felt two quakes (1995 and 2001). But both quakes didn't cause much damage; we had more damage from the December windstorm.
posted by dw at 6:20 PM on May 6, 2007


I think steel cargo containers would make about the best possible shelter. Cheap, waterproof (or easy to waterproof), strong, just dig a hole, drop 'er in, and bury it.

That's all a fraidy hole is, only they were usually made from cylindrical tanks rather than shipping containers. And there's a pipe of some sort to allow fresh air in.

They make great root cellars, too.
posted by dw at 6:24 PM on May 6, 2007


instead of having HR say "You don't have enough vacation time, if you leave, we'll consider your job abandoned."

That's the sort of company where it would be very, very gratifying to see all the employees simultaneously decide to say "fuck it" and go anyway.

Chances are the company would be in no position whatsoever to fire everyone: how could all employees be replaced simultaneously? It's unfeasible.

The publicity would be so great the company would be afraid to fart, let alone fire people.

The problem is that so many people fear change that they're unable to work together to accomplish it. Imagine the post-rescue workplace environment... it'd be pretty damn neat to know everyone had pulled together when it really counted.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:16 PM on May 6, 2007


As a Katrina survivor who lost everything, my heart and prayers are with these people.

With a hurricane, at least we have 24 hours notice. these poor people....
posted by JujuB at 8:09 PM on May 6, 2007


I very nearly purchased a business in Greensburg 9 years ago, but decided against it because of its remote location... I know people from there and simply am at a loss for words at the carnage.
posted by drstrangelove at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2007


five fresh fish : "The problem is that so many people fear change that they're unable to work together to accomplish it."

Speaking as the kind of person who would like to do that kind of thing but would be afraid to do it, I don't think it's fear of change. It's fear that other folks won't hold up their end of the bargain, and that when you actually go to volunteer, you'll be one of only a handful of folks, and thus be fired. It's a fear of other people bailing, not a fear of change.
posted by Bugbread at 2:41 AM on May 7, 2007


Yah, I agree. The idea of it causing change is probably too far-future/remote for most people to connect emotionally; they're driven by more immediate fears.

It's a damn shame either way. A workplace that could pull together and help a town is a workplace worth belonging to. One in which the employer is a greedy ass? Not so much.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2007


But the impact is local. You don't want to be in the path of the storm, but even an F5 only offers at worst a 2 mile wide path of destruction. 95% of metro OKC received no damage from the Moore F5.

Exactly. The Moore twister went through four miles north of my office and ten miles south of my apartment. I had to stay the night with a friend because the roads were closed, but otherwise nada.

I think someone's mentioned it, but a lot of us are on clay mix out here - basements are a bitch and a half to dig and keep dry, and it's not the wealthiest section of the country. Growing up, we had an 8'x6' concrete cylinder sunk in the backyard - it was cold and filled with old newspapers and daddy longlegs and could have induced claustrophobia in a coal miner. Still, whenever the siren sounded, half the neighborhood would show up at the back gate. As an eight-year-old, I stood in the mouth of that little tomb and watched an F2 blow past half a mile away, until my mom yanked me back inside.

I was just in Oklahoma for the first time last week & there were a couple of really bad storms while we were driving to/from Oklahoma City & Tulsa. The whole sky was black, and at one point I saw a tiny funnel cloud, my first one.

Yeah. Absolutely no minimizing of the tragedy those storms have inflicted, but wasn't it amazing?
posted by ormondsacker at 10:58 AM on May 7, 2007


When Mother Nature puts on a big show it is always amazing.

We puny little humans are no match against the unstoppable forces of nature.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:12 PM on May 7, 2007


I think someone's mentioned it, but a lot of us are on clay mix out here - basements are a bitch and a half to dig and keep dry, and it's not the wealthiest section of the country.

Most of Tulsa has a thick layer of yellow clay about two feet below the surface. Oklahoma City has red clay at the surface. Not only is Oklahoma clay hard to sink a basement into, the region's frequent droughts mean the clay shrinks and causes settling. It's a lot easier to jack up a slab or a foundation with a crawlspace than a house with a basement.

Growing up, we had an 8'x6' concrete cylinder sunk in the backyard - it was cold and filled with old newspapers and daddy longlegs and could have induced claustrophobia in a coal miner. Still, whenever the siren sounded, half the neighborhood would show up at the back gate. As an eight-year-old, I stood in the mouth of that little tomb and watched an F2 blow past half a mile away, until my mom yanked me back inside.

See, you're a true Okie -- you hear the sirens and run OUTSIDE to watch.

In Seattle, the weather guys are basically clowns and foils for the anchors while reading off the NWS forecast. In Oklahoma, they're celebrities who use "rain-wrapped mesocyclone" for viewers who all know exactly what they're talking about. That's something I'll never get used to.
posted by dw at 2:14 PM on May 7, 2007




See, compare that to the weather reports in L.A... a half inch of rain and the local news stations have already created graphics for "STORMWATCH 2007!!!" Traffic has shut down. State of mass panic ensues.

[kidding. kinda.]
posted by miss lynnster at 2:34 PM on May 7, 2007


Or compare to snow in Vancouver, which pretty much causes everyone to freak out and crash their cars into one another. State of mass panic ensues.

[not kidding. at all.]
posted by five fresh fish at 2:38 PM on May 7, 2007


The administration should be hit with a tornado themselves--unbelievable:

White House Blames Gov. Sebelius For National Guard Shortages
posted by amberglow at 11:32 AM on May 8, 2007


Well-balanced: I do not find those "survivability" specs reassuring. That's because he's ignoring what I think is a critical factor: the Bernoulli principle.

That's what makes aircraft wings work. Air moves faster over the top, and thus there's less pressure on top. The differential between bottom and top pushes the wing, and the aircraft, upwards.


wrong again. Twice in one thread. Wow.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 PM on May 12, 2007


OK, delmoi, that is a bit disingenuous. It does work the way Den Beste said, it is just that other things come into play as well. It wasn't that long ago when I was training to be an aeronautical engineer that I learned it just how Steven said. People can get pretty smug over their science beliefs and then poof, they are wrong. Don't be surprised if CO2 turns out not to be the cause of global warming. Oh, I think it is, but just because I think the folks who say otherwise are self serving toadies, doesn't mean they might not turn out to be right. Science is a fickle matron. Oh, and the Earth is flat you moran.
posted by caddis at 6:13 PM on May 12, 2007


delmoi writes "wrong again. Twice in one thread. Wow."

From the link you've linked to: "Is it wrong to invoke the Bernoulli principle when explaining how an airfoil works? No, but it tends to confuse matters for the non-technical audience."

Wrong again, delmoi. Twice in one thread. Wow.
posted by Bugbread at 3:58 PM on May 13, 2007


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