TORNADO WEEK: Homeowners add safe rooms; other shelters hide in plain sight

Published: Apr. 19, 2019 at 11:15 PM CDT
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Tornados cost billions of dollars in damage every year, and in some cases, a tragic loss of life.

But finding ways to keep your family safe are available.

Craig Broadstone of

builds tornado-resistant rooms.

"They can withstand an F5 tornado hitting it directly," he said.

They look like any other room — until you hear the list of building materials:

"Two three-quarter-inch thicknesses of plywood on the outside, and we glue it, and we screw it to like 2x6 or 2x8 studs in the wall," Broadstone said. "And we fill that then with concrete slabs."

That is repeated on the inside of the room as well. Usually built in the basement, these free-standing rooms tie into two existing walls and have a steel-reinforced top and doors to withstand the force of a 12-foot 2x4 fired at 150 miles per hour.

"The house could be gone, and the tornado room still stands," Broadstone said. "The last tornado we had, I stood in the back of my trailer and watched it bob up and down."

Mobile home parks can be the most dangerous place during a tornado. Maplewood Estates near 132nd and West Maple has a lower-tech version of a safe room; they call them "fraidy holes."

"I didn't even know they existed," said James Edginton, who recently moved in here.

These tornado shelters are east-facing, which is perfect because the door wouldn't be exposed to anything that would come from the west or the southwest, and many people can ride out the tornado there.

There are more than two dozen of these "fraidy holes," including one large room that could keep maybe 100 people safe. With nearly 400 tenants here, these "safe rooms" are spread across the park.

Edgington said he is claustrophobic but that he'd use one should the need arise.