Welcome Home, Part 7: The Tornado Fun Zone

Yes, we’re currently on tornado watch, due to tropical storm Debby (note to self: find out if they usually get through a whole alphabet of storm names in a season). I didn’t know we had tornados in Florida before we moved here (among other things. This was obviously not the most well-researched move). Someone was killed by a tornado in south Florida yesterday, and when I saw the picture of her house, I freaked out a little. Or a lot.

Fortunately, this was not the first time I had heard of tornados here. Mormons in general are known for being a bit fanatical about disaster preparation. Not only are we enjoined to have a 72-hour-kit full of necessities like high-energy food, flashlights, emergency blankets, solar/hand crank radio, etc., but also a three-month supply of the normal foods we eat, and a full year supply of longer-term food storage like wheat and dried beans.

I don’t know if it’s because this is a high disaster area, or just because people have useful hobbies, but our Ward here is the most disaster-prepared ward I’ve ever encountered. Just a month or two ago, we had a Ward activity centered around preparedness. The lights in the Church building were off, and everyone was supposed to bring an electric lantern to light their family’s table.

We brought a Coleman lantern, since that’s what I found in our camping gear, but I was informed that the fire code proscribed its use, so we sat at a more prepared person’s table. The really hard-core members had been living for the whole week as if a disaster had struck, and refraining from the use of electricity, hot water, and other accoutrements of modern life.

It was a potluck, and everyone was supposed to bring food made out of stuff from their food storage. It was an interesting meal, to say the least, with lots of reconstituted soups and T.V.P. I was not even able to guess what some of the food was made out of. I brought refried beans. Probably the most creative menu item was the fish cakes, made of canned fish rolled in corn flakes. Um . . . yum?

The missionaries turned up late, without any investigators, which was probably a good thing, because sitting around in the dark eating semi-edibles and talking about various calamities of the “last days” might not have been the best introduction to the Church, whatever its ultimate practical value.

After we ate, we sat in the eerie glow of the electric lanterns and people shared their disaster-related expertise. There were presentations on solar cooking, getting water out of sycamore trees (you can get five gallons a day if you tap the tree like a sugar maple), and storm preparedness. I was in charge of talking about how to entertain children without electricity. Most of what my children do all day is not electrically-related, so that wasn’t too difficult.

Somebody had made a little oven out of a cardboard box that would cook a full dinner with just three briquets. Someone else had a ham radio set up. Our Ward has a total of 23 certified ham radio operators, who are organized to keep in touch during a disaster and check up on the various sectors where members live. Even in a church with a culture of disaster preparedness, that’s got to be some kind of record.

And someone else talked about getting your home ready to weather a hurricane. After hearing the talk, Tony and I decided that our method of weathering a hurricane would be to leave town. The presenter also mentioned tornados. My personal experience with tornados is limited to watching The Wizard of Oz, so I raised my hand and asked what we should do if a tornado came through, since we haven’t got a root cellar.

Today when I had my tornado-induced freak-out, I used what I’d learned at the Ward activity to set up our very own storm shelter, aka Tornado Fun Zone.

The first thing we had to do was decide which room of the house would be the safest in case of a tornado. It’s supposed to be an internal room without windows. Our first thought was the children’s bathroom, since it’s technically three walls deep and somebody at the activity told a story about a friend of a friend who ran into the bathroom and grabbed the toilet during a tornado. After the tornado had passed, the only thing left of the house was the toilet and the person clinging to it. I made a mental note to clean my toilet.

But then we remembered that the bathroom has a skylight, and of course I immediately pictured us all getting sucked out through the skylight. Our bathroom is even worse, since it’s on an outside wall with two large windows, and tons of other glass in the room from the shower and mirrors. So yeah. The only room in our house without windows is my walk-in closet. Here’s the entrance, right next to my Mommy Wall in my bedroom. Doesn’t it look so inviting?

Here’s the inside. Excuse the clutter, but it really does spend most of its time functioning as a closet.

Here’s my blanket stash, in case we have to spend the night in it. Not that we would need blankets if the four of us were all snuggled in here together.

Behind the blankets you can just see the back of the mirror that Tony has promised to move to another closet so it doesn’t shatter on top of us.

Here’s our stash of bunny crackers, sardines, and oysters, in case we get hungry while the tornado is passing over us. Below are some books and crayons to amuse us, and a flashlight in case the power goes off.

Here’s the water in case we get thirsty, our 72-hour-kit, and the bicycle helmets that I read on some website that we should wear in case of flying objects (such as all of the containers and boxes stored on shelves above our heads in the closet).

Does it look like we’ll survive the tornado?

5 thoughts on “Welcome Home, Part 7: The Tornado Fun Zone

  • July 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Sarah, I understand being scared of tornadoes! Last year when we were in GA was when that huge tornado hit about four hours from our house and destroyed hundreds of homes. We went to help with the tornado clean up afterward. We looked out over a valley of leveled homes and all you saw that was left in almost all of them was a toilet. I know the skylight is scary, but in home after home the only thing left was toilets.
    By the way, your ward is impressive!

  • June 26, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Thanks for the links, Susanne! It’s great to know the names beforehand. That way when they come, they’ll seem like old friends.

    After I made my preparations, I talked to a local friend, and she added something to my list of preparations: praying that God will protect us. I realized that a lot of my panic over the prospect of a tornado was the fact that I felt like it was beyond my control. It’s nice to remember that I don’t have to be in control of everything, because God’s got it covered.

  • June 26, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Awesome, glad to see you are prepared. I think there are some really good ideas here, even if you seemed a bit freaked out. Love ya,

  • June 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Wow, this post was both hilarious and impressive! I love how prepared y’all are for natural disasters. Your potluck at church sounds creative. 🙂

    They usually do not get through all the names in a typical hurricane season…plus some letters are skipped. I only remember one season where they used them all and started on the Greek letters. Oh, I just looked it up. That was the year of Katrina…a nasty year.


    Here are the names of the 2012 storms in case you are interested.



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