After Deadly Tornadoes, Some Lawmakers Seek to Mandate Storm Shelters

May 29, 2013

Following the deadly tornadoes in Moore, Okla., last week, sales of storm shelters and safe rooms are reportedly soaring along “Tornado Alley,” and some lawmakers and city officials are even trying to mandate them in some areas. 

Many of the homes in Tornado Alley lack basements due to the high water table and red clay soil, which absorbs moisture quickly, according to housing experts. 

Moore, Okla., now has the rare distinction of being the only known city to be struck by two massive EF5 tornadoes in recent years -- the one last week and in May 1999. The most recent tornado destroyed or damaged about 13,000 homes and killed 24 people. EF5 tornadoes -- which have winds of 200 miles per hour or higher -- are considered unsurvivable unless a person is in shelter below ground level. 

The devastation in Moore has prompted city officials there to consider mandating that new home construction in the city have underground storm shelters. That would add about $4,000 to construction costs per household. About 20 percent of homes in Oklahoma already have storm shelters, according to some estimates.

State legislators in Oklahoma are expected to consider mandating in-ground storm shelters for schools. Alabama is the only such state that has that mandate. In the latest Moore tornado, seven children died while at an elementary school that was flattened by the tornado. 

Source: “Storm-Shelter Sales Spike After Oklahoma Tornado,” CNBC (May 28, 2013) and “Time to require tornado shelters in Oklahoma? Moore's mayor says yes,” The Christian Science Monitor (May 23, 2013)

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