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Author Topic: crawl space as tornado shelter
baldingwxguy
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 06:58 AM      Profile for baldingwxguy   Author's Homepage   Email baldingwxguy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I get this question a lot. "Can I go to my crawl space during a tornado?"

I'm always hesitant to answer because someone else I work with tells them they shouldn't (and has said so on the air) because no one knows to look for them there and they could get trapped if the house collapses.

I feel like it's a good place. It's below ground (usually), with a concrete wall and a very tight system of beams and braces anchored to it. I've seen many times when the rest of the house is gone, but the floor over the crawl space is still there.

Discuss. [Smile]

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Hydrometeorman smells like a woman.

Posts: 953 | From: Springfield, MO | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
ill tempered kelp monkey
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:01 AM      Profile for ill tempered kelp monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think it could be easily reinforced into a passable shelter (sealed in keeping varmints out)
Posts: 146 | From: Los Angeles | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged
south side of the sky
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:02 AM      Profile for south side of the sky     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My wife asked the same question the other day since we have just a crawl space at our house. I wasn't really sure if it would be safe. Obviously if there was no where else to go and we had to seek shelter from a huge storm, it's worth a shot. I would be worried about being trapped under all the debris in such a tight space. Granted the chances of seeing a storm that big where I live is slim to none.

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1.20.09

Posts: 1186 | From: The mountain state | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
rdale
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:08 AM      Profile for rdale   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Always temper an answer with "choose the best location possible, but if you have to..." when it comes to these type of questionable reponses... Same with "get into a ditch" -- when people ask me if that's really my recommendation, I tell them that finding a sturdy structure or driving at an angle away from the tornado is best, but "if you have to..."
Posts: 2367 | From: Lansing, MI | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
GustyXwinds
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:13 AM      Profile for GustyXwinds   Author's Homepage   Email GustyXwinds   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Boy am I mixed on that. I could really see the house collapsing on top of people in the crawl space - especially if it hasn't been re-inforced properly. I would wonder if perhaps in interior room or closet might be better . . .

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It's like, Omigod!! I like sooooo can't totally believe that just happened!!

Posts: 1444 | From: On the yellow brick road | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
tvwxguy
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:55 AM      Profile for tvwxguy     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
We tell people who don't have basements to go to an interior BR/Closet!!! People, come on... if an F-5, wait - I mean an EF-5 comes through, ain't NO closet out there strong enough to save your life.

rdale said it best... find the best location POSSIBLE (my gawd - that's twice today [Eek!] ).

If it comes down to a crawl space VS an interior closet, you can bet my a$$ is in the crawl space!

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And then he'll settle down, in a quiet little town and forget about everything...

Posts: 3906 | From: the Land of CoNfUsIoN | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
MOCR
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 08:31 AM      Profile for MOCR     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
EXCELLENT question. We actually have a storm "cellar" behind the mansion, but it is not what I would call shelter-worthy. The door would blow off in a heartbeat and we have not one, but 2 giant elm trees just a few feet north of the cellar- I suspect the trees would be uprooted and carried away with the house, and take most of the anchoring soil near the cellar with them. Worse, the trees could uproot/fall to the south and collapse in on the cellar. With the door blown off, my mind conjures up all kinds of pictures of storm-blown debris packing the cellar and impaling anyone inside. Dropping a roach bomb down the cellar's air pipe makes for some exciting moments when waves of black little bugs emerge from under the door. No way in HADES I'd choose that place for safety- it's seems more like a coffin to me.

I've told my wife many times, like as rdale said, IF I HAD TO, I'd go for the crawl space. Not much down there to get blown around, and the biggest worry, aside from a natural gas leak, would be collapse of the sub-flooring. The major downside as others have said, is that there's usually only one way down into that space, and no telling if you'd be able to get back out after the event...

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"There are storms that are named, storms that are not named, and storms that are named that are not storms" -NHC Director Rumsfeld

Posts: 1292 | From: TEXAS | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
baldingwxguy
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 10:08 AM      Profile for baldingwxguy   Author's Homepage   Email baldingwxguy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks for the responses. I guess crawl spaces all differ too. The house I lived in last was a new home and it was about a 4-foot crawl space that was clean. Yeah, a bit of a pain to get into...but if the sub-flooring can hold the weight of the house to begin with, it should hold the weight of a collapsed house as well. Seems like the chances of SURVIVAL would be best in the crawl space as compared to a closet/bath. But, I guess you don't necessarily know what size/strength of tornado is coming at you, either, in most cases.

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Hydrometeorman smells like a woman.

Posts: 953 | From: Springfield, MO | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
WXFORECASTER
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 12:32 PM      Profile for WXFORECASTER   Author's Homepage   Email WXFORECASTER   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by MOCR:
EXCELLENT question. We actually have a storm "cellar" behind the mansion, but it is not what I would call shelter-worthy. The door would blow off in a heartbeat and we have not one, but 2 giant elm trees just a few feet north of the cellar- I suspect the trees would be uprooted and carried away with the house, and take most of the anchoring soil near the cellar with them. Worse, the trees could uproot/fall to the south and collapse in on the cellar. With the door blown off, my mind conjures up all kinds of pictures of storm-blown debris packing the cellar and impaling anyone inside. Dropping a roach bomb down the cellar's air pipe makes for some exciting moments when waves of black little bugs emerge from under the door. No way in HADES I'd choose that place for safety- it's seems more like a coffin to me.

I've told my wife many times, like as rdale said, IF I HAD TO, I'd go for the crawl space. Not much down there to get blown around, and the biggest worry, aside from a natural gas leak, would be collapse of the sub-flooring. The major downside as others have said, is that there's usually only one way down into that space, and no telling if you'd be able to get back out after the event...

What are you talking about... If we had a tornado come across here, you will not be at home, you will be chasing. DUHHHH... LOL [party] Of course you know we will but you in the inflow.. but make you drive through the bears cage first! [Wink] Just kidding!

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The Weather Forecaster Webpage

Posts: 2246 | From: Back in the mountains | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
SevereClear
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 06:02 PM      Profile for SevereClear     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My WCM here asked Tim Marshall (EF Scale dude-HAAG Engineering) and he said:

quote:
the crawl space would not be an acceptable shelter in a house built with pier and beam construction (i.e., stacks of concrete blocks or similar material for the piers with the beams laid across them). He said if the beams started to shake off the piers, the whole mess would collapse into the crawl space, crushing anyone who was down there
I'd listen to Tim...

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This Guy Is A Hero

Posts: 3367 | From: Among The Rice | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
baldingwxguy
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:00 PM      Profile for baldingwxguy   Author's Homepage   Email baldingwxguy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by SevereClear:
My WCM here asked Tim Marshall (EF Scale dude-HAAG Engineering) and he said:

quote:
the crawl space would not be an acceptable shelter in a house built with pier and beam construction (i.e., stacks of concrete blocks or similar material for the piers with the beams laid across them). He said if the beams started to shake off the piers, the whole mess would collapse into the crawl space, crushing anyone who was down there
I'd listen to Tim...
With all due respect to Tim, that makes no sense. While it's true the cross beams simply rest on the piers, they are well anchored to the end boards and sill plates...which are in turn bolted to the concrete foundation every few feet. The only way the cross beams are going to "shake off the piers" is if the entire floor is being ripped away. If that's the case, you're screwed either way, 'cause if you're in a bathroom or closet you're gonna be carried away with the house.

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Hydrometeorman smells like a woman.

Posts: 953 | From: Springfield, MO | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
SevereClear
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 07:42 PM      Profile for SevereClear     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't know how a house is built. All I know is an engineer that was a key player in the research behind the EF scale says "No". Therefore, I will tell people not to do it, too.

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This Guy Is A Hero

Posts: 3367 | From: Among The Rice | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
weatherly
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2007 08:18 PM      Profile for weatherly     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I suppose it depends on how your crawlspace is built. Out here the foundation is poured and the subfloor and floorjoists are anchored to the poured stemwall. I would much prefer to be under there (preferably up against the stemwall instead of in the middle) than to take my chances in an interior room. If the storm is strong enough to collapse the subfloor, I sure as hell don't want to be in an interior room... becasue that will be in at least as bad of shape. And besides, if the floor will cave in a crawlspace, how would being in a basement be any better? In essence, all a basement is is a deeper crawlspace.

I think the engineer's example given above pertains to block foundations, where the subflooring basically rests on top without being an integral part. I am always amased that that kind of house can be built these days... especially with the tornado danger out where many of them are.

Posts: 350 | From: Reno | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
MOCR
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Icon 1 posted May 09, 2007 12:35 AM      Profile for MOCR     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Actually I'm not surprised. Basements are a HUGE cost to include with the price of a new home- and just try adding one after the house is built!

The soil plays a large role in whether or not basements are an option. So too is the water table. West Texas may be dry most of the time, but we do have a fairly high water table in places here.

Slab foundations are the cheapest and the quickest to throw together, and a bit more energy efficient than a home with a crawlspace. Slabs are certainly more quiet- no creaking floor joists!

However, as a the homeowner of a house with a crawlspace, I must admit- they certainly make plumbing tasks and wiring CAT5 a breeze!

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"There are storms that are named, storms that are not named, and storms that are named that are not storms" -NHC Director Rumsfeld

Posts: 1292 | From: TEXAS | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
DoneThatToo
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Icon 1 posted May 09, 2007 02:53 PM      Profile for DoneThatToo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by weatherly:
I suppose it depends on how your crawlspace is built. Out here the foundation is poured and the subfloor and floorjoists are anchored to the poured stemwall. . . .

I think the engineer's example given above pertains to block foundations, where the subflooring basically rests on top without being an integral part. I am always amased that that kind of house can be built these days... especially with the tornado danger out where many of them are.

Such is my house. Now granted it is 100 years old but this sucker is built! True 2x4/6/8 construction and little sag after all these years. BUT the sills are in no way attached to the pilers. So given this info I think we will have to pick the best place inside that is part of the original structure.

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“I had a horse
Named Bad Luck
She weren't good lookin'
But she sure could buck

Yahoo hey hey
Yippee yi cy yey”

Posts: 1169 | From: Here, There and Everywhere | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
powerguy
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Icon 1 posted May 09, 2007 05:17 PM      Profile for powerguy   Email powerguy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
As a last resort Providing the crawl space gos underground.
Posts: 375 | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged


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