Tornado Shelter

 Posted by at 1:15 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 032023

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most feared and deadly phenomena, and rightly so. Every year an average of 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in an average of 80 deaths and thousands of injuries. Not to mention the many millions of dollars in property damage.

I am no stranger to tornadoes. I lived in Ohio when a devastating 1965 tornado outbreak decimated towns and cities across the Midwest from Iowa to Ohio. 266 lives were lost in what became known as the Palm Sunday tornadoes, and 3,662 people were injured. A few years later, my first car narrowly missed being crushed by a tree that fell on our street when a tornado came to call.

I had another close call when my son was a toddler. A tornado tore through the area where we were living in Minnesota, destroying my next door neighbor’s house and lifting the garage off its foundation at the neighbor’s place on the other side of us. I was outside doing some yard work when the sirens went off, and I grabbed Travis and ran for the basement. Ironically, when we came out in the storm’s aftermath, our home was undamaged, and his coloring book and crayons were still on the little table in the yard where we had left them.

In the summer of 2016, Terry and I were at a Fiber Festival in Allegan, Michigan when a tornado struck the area. Dozens of us were huddled in a bathroom at the fairgrounds, which is where I met my little buddy Caleb. He was eight years old at the time and there with his mom. He was pretty scared of the tornado, so much so that his teeth were chattering. So I got down on my knees and spent some time visiting with him to take his mind off of things. I told him to hang onto me if he wanted to, because fat guys don’t blow away no matter how bad the wind gets. I guess it helped, because he was smiling by the time the all clear was finally issued and we parted company.

Travis had another close call on April 27, 2011, when an EF4 tornado raged through Alabama, cutting a wide swath of damage between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. It was the second tornado to hit Tuscaloosa in two weeks. Geli was at work when the storm hit, and with cell towers down in Tuscaloosa, it took hours for them to find each other. He still suffers from PTSD from that experience.

Given all that, one of our first priorities when we decided to move here was to have a tornado shelter installed at our house. After researching different shelters and companies in the area, I contacted Forrest at Tuskaloosa Tornado Shelters and he came out to look at our property and discuss our options. The company installs both above and below grounds shelters, but at age 70, neither Terry nor I felt like navigating the steps to an underground shelter in a panic would be a good idea for us. We were trying to decide where in our yard to put a shelter when Forrest mentioned that they can also be indoors and Terry suggested we look at our large two car garage. We decided that was the best option for our needs and ordered a 6×8 foot Everest shelter, which would fit perfectly in a corner at the rear of the garage.

Forrest and his assistant Tyler arrived yesterday morning in a large boom truck to do the installation.

Once the boom had the steel shelter off the truck, it was a close fit to get it inside the garage.

Then Forrest and Tyler used pallet jacks to position it in place.

The six-point reinforced door features three heavy-duty welded hinges and three one-inch slide bolts on the inside. In is designed to open inward, so if the garage were to collapse in a storm, the door cannot be blocked by debris. We have a regular door in the garage that opens onto a short, covered breezeway to a door on the side of the house. It is a straight shot of about twelve feet from that door to the inside of the shelter, so we can get to it in a hurry if we ever need to.

I am impressed with the storm shelter or safe room, whichever you prefer to call it. It is made of steel plate and all interior seams and walls are reinforced with angle steel. It is anchored to the concrete floor of the garage with 25 wedge anchor bolts, each rated for over 14,465 pounds of stress.

The interior ceiling height is 6’4” and the shelter can accommodate as many as fifteen people. That sounds like a lot when it is just the two of us, but hopefully in dangerous weather Travis and Geli can get here to take shelter with us. We also have neighbors with children and wanted to have a refuge available to them if needed.

Several people have asked about the cost. Delivered and installed, it was a bit over $10,000. That may seem like a lot of money, but what are human lives worth? We see it as an investment in our safety. It’s like having a fire extinguisher or a firearm for self-defense. You may never need it, but if you do, you really need it!

Thought For The Day – The only thing you have to fear is fear itself… and spiders. (And snakes.)😊

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  8 Responses to “Tornado Shelter”

  1. So glad to hear you’ve installed a tornado shelter. That was the first thing on my mind when you said you were moving to Alabama! After all, I need you around so the “Big Lake” books to won’t end!!! (smile!)

  2. I am curious if there is any climate control in your new shelter. How is fresh air supplied? I do believe it is a wise decision. We rode out a storm in our RV and a bathroom last year while we were in Alabama, it was not fun !!

  3. Nice shelter, just add a couple comfortable chairs, battery lighting, radio and a supply of water and snacks and you will be safe and snug during any emergencies.

  4. Gail, those rectangular holes you see on the top are air vents in the roof that are protected by steel covers.

  5. A wise purchase Nick, considering where you live. $10,000 for the security it will give you and Terry is a cheap price to pay and it will increase the value of your property by at least that much. A win – win situation!

  6. Nice, Nick. Maybe add some battery operated LED lights, some cushions and blankets, you’ll be good to go! I hope you never have to use it, but I’m glad you’re ready if needed. Thanks for the pictures, makes it a lot easier to see what you’ve been up to.

  7. And the adventure continues… Just hope you won’t have to use the shelter for anything serious. I’ve never seen one of these before, so, thank you for posting it. Would one of Miss Terry’s looms fit in there? A way to reduce stress!

  8. Good move!

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