Monthly Archives: May 2011

Spring in Oklahoma

Yesterday four very large tornadoes raked across central Oklahoma. We had plenty of warning; lots of time to prepare. We knew on Monday that Tuesday afternoon would be bad. Upon return from my agility class on Tuesday I began to prepare the storm shelter. Jeans, boots, hard hats and gloves went in, just in case, along with a small battery powered fan. The shelter is equipped with LED lights, but since the storms were arriving after 5PM, I added a flashlight to my supplies should we lose power. In my “grab and go” bag I put my purse, my cameras, cell phone chargers, prescription drugs, and orthotics. At the last minute I added my computer, and hung the works on the kitchen door. The shelter door was opened and the handrail was in place. All we had to do now was wait.

The first tornado started late afternoon in the northwest part of the State, they strengthened very rapidly, and continued to form further and further South until they’re were two tornadoes likely to threaten parts of Norman. The tornado sirens sounded at 5:30 PM and we headed for the shelter. The dogs were happy enough to have their leashes on, but not pleased with the idea of going into a dark hole. Odo tried to fight it, but I’m bigger than he is. D’Argo settled down after getting his treats but Odo wasn’t happy. He panted and stared at the back wall most of the hour he was in there.

While Peter watched the hail fall outside the garage door, I listened to the radio. Piedmont was hit, El Reno, Chickasha, Blanchard, Golsdby, Washington. More tornado warnings were issued including Slaughterville and Noble to our south, and Lake Thunderbird, us. The sirens sounded again and we shut the shelter door locking it in place.

We’ll probably never know why the rotation weakened at the very edge of Norman, but the tornado lifted, sparing the property of so many dear friends. We emerged from the earth unscathed.

As the tornado lifted and the winds abated a rain of debris fell over Norman. Walking the dogs that evening, we came across bits and pieces of flotsam: a torn piece of painted plywood, an envelope, some sodden lumps of insulation, a piece of wheat. Evidence of the shattered lives of people to our southwest. Evidence of the atmospheric violence that often accompanies Spring in Oklahoma.

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Equal Rivals

This Cardinal has been annoying us for the past few days, fighting with our bedroom window. I finally took a close look at him and noticed just how beat up he is. It looks like, from the loss of breast and flank feathers, that he’s been on the losing end of numerous scrape-ups with rival males. I’m guessing that with the reflection in the window, he’s finally found an equal rival. He’ll sing for a little while from the pear tree or the new fence, then fly down and smack against the window a few times. I’ve attached some mylar tape (it flaps and sparkles in the wind) to three of the window panes, but that just forced him to concentrate on the two other panes of glass. The next time I have energy, or am annoyed enough, I’ll put the tape on the other panes as well. Hopefully that will curb his testosterone induced insanity, or at least scare him away.

Best Hidey-hole EVER.

Living in Oklahoma, we’re well aware of the need for a safe place to take shelter in case of a tornado. You may never need it but it’s always reassuring to have on hand – like an insurance policy. The money just hadn’t been available until now, so our first big purchase after paying off the house is an underground storm shelter.

After the May 3rd tornado of 1999, when a lot of the City of Moore was destroyed, I started hearing ads for retrofitted storm shelters set in the floor of the garage. We lived in an apartment at the time, but the idea was intriguing. Now that we have our own home in Oklahoma and the funds were available, we looked into getting one. After testing out an installation at a friend’s house, we decided to bite the bullet, and today, it was installed. I decided to put it in my workshop bay, since that section never housed a car and it was easily accessible from the kitchen.

The installers arrived around 7:15 AM. I was walking the dogs, but Peter stayed home to help supervise. The shelter is basically a reinforced steel box with a sliding lid.

The first task is of course cutting the concrete slab in the floor of the garage. As it turns out our slab was well built, with nearly twice the concrete depth than usual. Good to know. Of course that gave them a little trouble as the saw didn’t quite cut all the way through.

Once cut, the slabs were removed…

…and the digging began. Here they had better luck. The soil was mostly sand and clay sand, with a few inches of harder clay at the bottom.

The final result is a tomb in our garage. The wire sticking out at the near end is a sacrificial anode which protects the steel from rusting. It’s buried beneath the shelter.

This was when it was easy to tell these guys had done hundreds of installations. They brought the shelter in and dropped it into the hole with mere millimeters to spare in clearance for the digger arm. Those extra concrete pieces were reused in filling the hole.

Once in place, it was leveled and centered. I should add at this point that once all the noise had stopped I went in to let the dogs out. Before I got to the front door, D’Argo started barking fiercely. I wasn’t sure what he was barking at so I let him out to discover that he was barking at the parked concrete saw. He didn’t stop barking until I went over and touched it. Then he was reassured that everyone was safe. I digress for a reason. Once they had set the shelter in place, D’Argo started barking again. When I went to check I nearly walked into a man in a construction vest walking up the driveway.

Talk about good timing. It was the concrete truck driver. He backed his truck all the way up our tenth of a mile driveway, uphill, and around a curve. Very impressive.

The concrete was then poured to fill the gap all around the shelter.

Smoothing was done so that there’s no lip to trip over.

The lid and door were installed while the fill and slab pieces were hauled away.

There you have it. That’s the view from the kitchen door. They were done by 11:15 AM. It would have taken less time if the loader had remembered to pack the benches. The installer had to go to town to pick up some wood.

The installation wouldn’t be complete without a date. When the concrete dries enough I’ll post a picture of the inside.