Dallas Tornado Aftermath: Re-Thinking the Home Tornado Shelter

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Dallas tornado

This comes from an article from our archives that is so timely today after the loss of life and property that hit our area last night about 6:45 p.m. Thank God for our sophisticated storm alert system. Mine came across as I was driving 60 mph down the Dallas North Tollway, flinching from the lightning display to the south and east.

Some people driving on the I-30 overpass near George W. Bush were not so fortunate.

storm shelter under staircase

We built a storm room in our home, located under the front hall stairs. Residential safe rooms are becoming a popular protection from violent tornadoes, and they can be retrofitted in an existing home. Safe rooms are accessed through an opening or door, and the walls and roof of a safe room are designed and built to protect against extreme winds and wind-borne debris. As is the safe-room door. Thankfully, I had recently cleared our safe room from junk that would survive a tornado while we blew away!

We got home, grabbed the dog, the bird (who was outside), a couple bottles of wine, and for some reason I grabbed a towel. Not my photos or jewelry, but a towel! We keep bottles of water in the closet, flashlights, batteries and now I am thinking a few pillows might be nice. And some throws. The dog has a water/food bowl, too. Last night’s storm was serious: Dallas tornado sirens were wailing when my husband pulled the door shut and latched it.

I now think everyone needs a tornado safe room in their home.new_home__clear_garage_installation-575x214

Maybe one of these should always be available: New Day Tornado Shelters, $3200 fresh from Tulsa, OK where they certainly know a thing or two about twisters.

Our hearts go out to the folks who have lost loved ones, and the many families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. But as of this writing, no fatalities in Rowlett because people were vigilant and took shelter. My friends who live in downtown Dallas and Uptown say they were told to get down to the parking garage and/or stairwell and stay put till the worst had passed.

So I’m thinking, we all need some kind of storm shelter in our homes. And a game-plan for disaster. So would you pay extra for a home that had a tornado shelter? Meantime, here are some safety tips to help you hide from that storm in your home:

Bathrooms: Bathrooms MAY be a good shelter, provided they are not along an outside wall and have no windows. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing magically safe about getting in a bathtub with a mattress. In some cases, this might be a great shelter. However, it depends on where your bathroom is. If your bathroom has windows and is along an outside wall, it’s probably not the best shelter.Bathrooms have proven to be adequate tornado shelters in many cases for a couple of reasons. First, bathrooms are typically small rooms with no windows in the middle of a building. Secondly, it is thought that the plumbing within the walls of a bathroom helps to add some structural strength to the room.However, with tornadoes there are no absolutes, and you should look closely at your home when determining your shelter area.

Closets: A small interior closet might be a shelter. Again, the closet should be as deep inside the building as possible, with no outside walls, doors or windows. Be sure to close the door and cover up.

Stairwell: The space underneath a stairwell could be used as a shelter. Generally speaking, you should not leave your home in your vehicle when a tornado threatens. In most cases, you will have a better chance of surviving by staying put in your home. Every home is different.

If a hallway is your shelter area, be sure to shut all doors. Again, the goal is to create as many barriers as possible between you and the flying debris in and near a tornado. To be an effective shelter, a hallway should as be far inside the building as possible and should not have any openings to the outside (windows and doors).

There is no absolute safe place in every home. Use the guidelines. Unless you are deep underground, there is no such thing as a 100% tornado-proof shelter. Freak accidents can happen.>The basic tornado safety guidelines apply if you live in an apartment. Get to the lowest floor, with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

Apartment dwellers should have a plan, particularly if you live on the upper floors. If your complex does not have a reinforced shelter, you should make arrangements to get to an apartment on the lowest floor possible.In some cases, the apartment clubhouse or laundry room may be used as a shelter, provided the basic safety guidelines are followed. You need to have a shelter area that’s accessible at all times of the day or night.


Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions


  1. Paul says

    “Unless you are deep underground, there is no such thing as a 100% tornado-proof shelter. ”

    Yes, there is. It is simple and they are built in Texas. In fact, they build EF-5 rated homes and schools across the country (FEMA kicks in up to 75% for the schools) and in other nations as well. The cost is about the same as for a regular house. Unless you own the home for 15-20 years in which case the savings from energy efficiency alone pays for the structure.


  2. LonestarBabs says

    In the meantime, sales are brisk and interest is up at the local Home Depot where a display of new tornado shelters attracts a steady stream of visitors. Here in the tornado-damaged area of Rowlett and Garland I see/hear people exploring all reasonable options as they rebuild — the conversations while standing in line at the local post office are quite interesting!

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