The Tuscaloosa/ B'ham tornado was rated a EF4 I think yesterday or the day before.
The safest place to be in a tornado is Jarrell TX
. (abt half an hour north of Austin) Why? Because in 1997 they had 3 tornadoes, one a EF5 tornado came thru and wiped out an entire neighborhood. 27 people died. The difference between a EF4 and EF5 is, obviously intensity. When a EF5 hits, all that's left are slabs. The houses are totally gone. Plumbing can be ripped out, sidewalks yanked out of the ground. (as a side note, this tornado tracked north to south, extremely unusual here)
Pretty much the only people who lived thru the direct hit were the people who either took off in their car and got out of the way, or the people who were underground. One guy, after having his house blown away in a previous tornado, dug a hole thru the slab in his house and made himself a shelter. It saved his family and several neighbors in the F5.
A few miles away, in Cedar Park, a F3 tornado hit a grocery store and buzz sawed it in half. All the people were ok cause the manager got everyone into the walkin freezer in the back. (That day there were 20 confirmed tornadoes. 6 F0, 6 F1, 3 F2, 3 F3, 1 F4 and 1 F5)
Anyway, why this is such a safe place? People realized that hiding in a bathtub wasn't going to help in an F4 or esp an F5 and they went out and bought underground shelters or had tornado safe rooms built into their houses. They have the highest per capita tornado shelter ratio of anywhere.
Moore OK has been hit by 2 EF5 tornadoes within a few years. Almost the exact same path. I remember seeing one lady who had a tornado safe room built into her house. It was the only thing standing in the neighborhood.
The problem is, shelters are expensive. In an F4/F5 it doesn't matter if you are in a trailer home or a regular house. You have to be in a shelter or out of the way. It won't survive an F5 and will rarely survive an F4. But F4 and F5 tornadoes are thankfully pretty rare so people think, well, it won't happen to me. F0-F3 tornadoes tend to be pretty narrow and skip around enforcing that belief.
In Jarrell, there were people who were killed because they left their mobile homes to go to shelter in nearby houses. The tornado hit the houses.
I think, in Dixie Alley anyway, they should make it mandatory for trailer parks, RV parks and mobile home parks to have at least one common tornado shelter that can accommodate all the residents. And if families all live on a parcel of land in their own compound whether it's in mobile homes or houses they should build a common shelter.
I saw an article last night that said sales of tornado shelters is brisk in Texas right now - outlets are selling in days what they normally sell in several months.
As far as basements in Alabama - we had a walk out basement when we lived there. North Alabama is hilly - and rocky. Granite, so they have to use dynamite to blast out basements most places. The water table isn't the problem, it the granite. We lived there during a big outbreak. Not a record one but a bad one. I saw the sky turn green (usually means severe thunderstorm with hail) and then the clouds above our house started rotating. Freakiest thing. We were home alone and we didn't even know to go into the basement so we stayed upstairs in the living room watching the storm. We lucked out - nothing bad happened to us.
One last thing. In my experience, there is almost never just one tornado. You get a line of storms and multiple tornadoes. At least here anyway. I saw that Auckland NZ had one this week and it sounded like they just had the one.
Edited by Shoshana, 05 May 2011 - 05:11 PM.