Alright, boys and girls. It’s that time of year again- Nader Season in Oklahoma! Clean the spiders out of your fraidy holes and get out your best “Gone Squatchin’” t-shirt in case you happen to make it on the local news.
Seriously though, it’s time to do some prep work. Especially if you are new to this part of the US and don’t quite have a full appreciation for our nasty weather that we sometimes have. Nasty and sometimes downright dangerous.
I grew up here so I’ve been well-versed in weather safety for quite a while. I’ve spent more time down in cellars/storm shelters than I could possibly count – and there are some things you should do to help stay safe & calm.
Lesson 1: Wear appropriate clothing.
Closed-toed shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and pants are great to help protect you from hazards. Wear some glasses if you can or have some protective eyewear in your shelter. And ladies – wear a bra. Consider that you may have to be in public in whatever you wear to your shelter.
Lesson 2: Have a bug-out bag.
This is what I call a backpack I have with items in it that we need that I don’t necessarily want to keep in the cellar. Some things I have in mine are a battery-powered weather radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, packaged snacks, bottled water, cell phone chargers, hand sanitizer wipes, and a day or two’s worth of your prescription medications. If you have kids or pets, you’ll want to have necessities for them like formula, diapers, wipes, etc. If you have room, you may add things like activity books, a gaming device, a comforting stuffed animal, etc to help keep the kids calm and entertained while you are waiting for the storm to pass. It would also be wise to have a small first aid kit in the bag or stored in your shelter. Be sure to have a metal whistle (like that crazy coach/teacher you had in high school) so you can alert people in the event you get stuck in your shelter. Also, having a whistle gives you an air of authority and can be a rad musical instrument if you get bored enough.
So as I mentioned before, there are some people who really really really don’t like going into storm shelters to the point it might be dangerous for them. Fear not! There are ways you can make the cellar a little less terrifying and dare-I-say, pleasant?
Lesson 3: Beautify and cozify your shelter.
You can get all sorts of lighting, from more practical lights to colorful LEDs or even super cute shaped string lights. Nothing says “this is almost like a tropical vacation” like flamingo string lights.
You can also get battery-operated fans which are PERFECT to help circulate the musty air and to keep it from being so stuffy and hot.
If you don’t have built-in seating, you’ll probably want to have some chairs to sit on. Folding chairs are great because they take up less space if you aren’t using them, are easy to clean, and are light to move around.
Because it’s often raining when you go to the shelter, you might want to keep some towels inside sealed bags and inside a plastic tote box in there so you can dry off. You can also use them as makeshift pillows to get more comfortable if you are there for an extended time.
Some people I know have chosen to paint the walls in their cellars or add cheerful phrases or art to their walls. I have a magnetic board in mine that has magnetic “paper dolls” that the kids can play with. I also decorated my plastic tote storage boxes with pretty and quirky printed “Duck Tape” to jazz things up a bit. Trust me, anthropomorphic cartoon pickles make everything better.
If you are lucky enough to have a storm shelter with magnetic walls, the possibilities are endless with all the fun magnetic shelves, decor, and doo-dads you can buy including lights and fans with magnetic backing.
Lesson 4: Record/document your valuables.
You can take digital pics or videos and upload them so you can easily access them if you need to do so. Trying to remember the plethora of possessions after a traumatic event is a Herculean task, so just do yourself a favor and be prepared ahead of time. You should also consider a safe place for storing important documents like birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, etc.
On a semi-related note, make sure you have your current drivers’ license on you with your correct address. If a tornado occurs and you evacuate, you will likely need your identification to get back into your neighborhood.
Hopefully, this list will be helpful to those of you who have storm cellars. If you are not fortunate to have one, pretty please educate yourself on what to do during severe weather. We have had too many tornadoes happen to not be prepared and have respect for what a powerful force they truly are.
I say this not to scare you but only to inform you that if you live here long enough, the more likely you are to experience severe weather in some capacity.
Now, if you need me I’ll be on my porch wearing my American flag onesie drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer with my pet pig. I hear there might be storms a’coming and I want to be camera-ready.