Monday, December 12, 2016

Assessing and addressing tornado risk where we live

When Judy and I finally took occupancy of our newly built home in Tennessee in April 2011, Judy moving in solo, and I arriving two months later (after finishing up my work obligations at the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Station in Houma, LA), the effects of three storms involving damaging winds were already evident.

1) During the time our home was being built, we could already see the effects of a previous wind-damage event on the tree farm immediately behind our property. A tornado-like event had created a swath of bent-down pine trees that could even be seen from the road fronting our property. I remember asking myself at the time, “Whatever kind of tornado-like event this was, what if the path of this event had been on our property (instead of immediately behind it) and after we had already had our modular home installed?”

2) On April 27 2011, one of the most deadly, damaging, and costly tornadoes in U.S. history swept a historically-long contiguous path from Tuskaloosa, AL, through the Huntsville area, through Trenton, GA all the way through Ringgold, GA. The effects of that tornado are still evident in Trenton (and other surrounding areas close to where we live) even to this day. People in our local LDS church congregation were called upon to assist in the cleanup.  In Year 2011, there was unusually high tornado activity in the MS-AL-GA-TN region of the U.S. (See map below)

3) Between April and June 2011, while Judy was here on her own, a large tree on our property came crashing down, thankfully not on our house, but, unfortunately onto the road that passes by us, taking down the power lines in its path. Judy and surrounding neighbors were without power for the next 36 hours, while the mess was being cleaned up by the County and power was being restored by the local electric company.

When we took occupancy, we recognized that we still had several large trees on our property that, if blown down in the wrong direction, could do damage to our house. We have since hired professional tree removers to come and cut down a few of those trees that we identified as the most threatening to our home. We are still not entirely out of the woods (no pun intended), when it comes to having trees that could potentially do damage to our home.

Even though we have neighbors who would let us use their shelters if there is enough time to respond and go somewhere else, we have decided to look into storm shelter alternatives and install our own shelter this coming year. Any thoughts you all have relative to storm shelters would be most welcome.

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