In Case of Tornado, Go to the Bathroom

When the tornado hit Van on Sunday, May 10, one family I know crowded eight people into the bathroom of their home until the tornado passed over their home. Why the bathroom?

The way their home was designed, the bathroom is in the middle of their home. It’s on the first floor, which is the only floor they have, since like most homes in East Texas there is no second floor. Because their home is pier-and-beam construction, there is no basement. Even if their home had been built on a concrete slab, there would have been no basement.

Because their bathroom is in the middle of their home, the rest of the home outside the bathroom would need to be destroyed before the destruction reached the bathroom. If your bathroom is on the outer wall of your home, you may want to choose a different small room near the center of the house. It could be a closet, for example.

When I built my home, I built the walls of my bathroom using 2x6s instead of 2x4s, with 2x10s on top. That gave us a “safe room” in case of a tornado. After working in Van for a few days after the tornado hit, I realize my “safe room” isn’t very safe. It is as safe as I could make it, however.

When we heard on the battery-powered weather radio that a second storm was approaching from the south, I put a rug in the bottom of our bathtub, added a thick Arctic sleeping bag, and put the weather radio and four small flashlights on the soap rack. I removed the shower curtain and curtain rod and put them in a bedroom. Ideally I should have put a mattress over the tub. The mattress is larger than the inside of the bathroom, so that wouldn’t work. A thick sleeping bag was the next-best option.

We have a battery-powered lamp in the bathroom that will turn on if the electricity goes off. We have our first-aid kits in the bathroom. We should have taped the mirror on the medicine cabinet and removed any heavy items from the bathroom shelves — we will next time! I have considered cutting a piece of thick plywood to fit over the bathtub.

We listened to the television and the battery-powered weather radio. If the electricity had gone off, we would have lost the television signal. But the battery-powered weather radio would still have been working. We were poised to jump in the tub together if it was likely that a tornado was coming toward our home. This isn’t “Shower with your steady,” it’s “Hop into the tub, Bub!”

While we listened to the radio and television, in the back of my mind was the sound of a freight train. I’ve heard that sound before, when a tornado came through. One of the folks I talked with in Van described the sound of the tornado as like a freight train. That was before the tornado picked his pier-and-beam house off the piers and dropped it several feet away.


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