Tornado shelter (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

I was sitting at this desk at 9:42 pm last night when the iPhone alert came through. “Tornado Warning in this area til 10:15 CDT. Take shelter now.” I woke my daughter, corralled the schnauzers and decamped team Farago into a tiny windowless bathroom in the middle of the ground floor. I lay a blanket down for the dogs and sat on the floor. Lola perched on the toilet. The minuscule radar image on the iPhone and the barely legible text crawling below it were not reassuring. Quite the opposite . . .

Our bedroom suburb was in the dead center of the warning zone. Bright yellow and orange bobs swirled towards our town’s name in a seemingly endless video loop. Deeply ominous red flecks moved through the middle of the mass. Ten minutes in, at 9:58pm, a stark message leaped out from the tiny screen. My town’s name and the words “rotation reported.” A tornado was forming directly overhead.

“I’m scared,” Lola said, her furrowed brow indicating maximum distress.

“Me too,” I replied.

Only I wasn’t, so much.

I’m a fatalist – especially when there’s nothing you can do to minimize or avoid catastrophe. More than that, I’m calm in a crisis. Maybe it’s the fatalism. Maybe it’s all the years I spent coping with my alcoholic second wife; years where stress piled on top of stress on a foundation of stress built on a subterranean strata of stress on a stress-filled planet flying through a galaxy of stress in stress universe. Or maybe it’s the just the way I’m wired.

In any case, even the imminent threat of an incipient tornado didn’t get my adrenalin pumping. An actual tornado? You’d have to have ice in your veins not to be scared shitless of that. And truth be told, I was frightened. Frightened for Lola.

“Daddy I don’t want to die,” Lola said. “You’re not going to die,” I assured her, pretending that the question was absurd. “How do you know that?” she demanded. “I don’t,” I admitted, brutally honest truth-teller that I am. “Let’s just say it’s highly unlikely.” “I don’t like gambling,” Lola laughed, nervously.

During the next ten minutes, I texted Dan and my next door neighbors (who were sheltering in their closet), watched the map with increasing trepidation, lied to Lola about the storm’s progress (there are limits) and listened for the freight train. “I hope it’s not coming for my guns,” I texted Dan. Which got me thinking . . .

Why wouldn’t a parent carry a gun to protect their children?

We do so much for our kids. We feed them, clothe them, put a roof over their heads, educate them and give them emotional support. Day after day, year after year, we do everything we can to keep them safe. To teach them how to be safe when we’re not around. More than that, we feel for them. We love them. Every part of us wants them to live.

And yet bad things happen. Things we can’t do anything about. Random, infrequent, statistically insignificant threats, like central Texas tornados. Or a moose jumping through a window into your kid’s classroom. And things we can do something about. Like childhood diseases. And violent attackers.

For those some of us can carry a gun. I highly recommend it. Despite gun control advocates’ anti-gun agitprop, a firearm is an extremely effective tool that dramatically increases your odds of survival in the unlikely event you need it to protect yourself or your genetic legacy. Which also includes those times when you’re not with your children. You can’t protect your kids if you’re dead.

I realize that managing risk isn’t quite that black-and-white. You can do something to prepare for “black swan” events. You can make sure your iPhone is on for tornado alerts when the weather closes in. Or build a storm shelter. And there are lots of ways to avoid violent attackers; strategies that have nothing to do with a gun. We can avoid stupid people in stupid place doing stupid things. Or hire a bodyguard.

Last night I was Lola’s bodyguard. And I was powerless to protect her from an enormous threat to her life.

As the minutes crawled by, all I could do was live through the danger with my daughter. I made jokes to distract her from the thought of the dark clouds swirling above our heads. I offered her all I had to give: the comfort of my existence. A father prepared to do whatever he needed to do to protect his child after the storm. If and when the weather tore our world apart.

Which it didn’t. So I’m still here. Still armed. Still ready to defend my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And that of my children. I understand those who don’t want to protect themselves and their kids by force of arms. But I do not appreciate or approve of anyone’s desire to limit Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

By persisting in this endeavor they put our children at risk. By doing so they run the risk of unleashing forces which will make a tornado seems like a mild breeze. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Time to walk the dogs.

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52 Responses to Random Thoughts About Tornados and Guns

  1. I was powerless to protect her….

    WRONG ! Matter of fact very wrong. By your actions you had already exercised considerable power over the situation. Now you have time to do more. Research re-enforcing that bathroom into a true tornado safe room.

    • ^ This.

      Or install a tornado “vault” in your back yard. The “vault” need not be much more than a small room — half underground — made with poured concrete walls and a steel door. It wouldn’t even cost all that much money to make said tornado “vault”.

      And you could spend a few extra dollars to make it thief resistant and store other items of value in there, such as rifles!

    • Another option is installing a tornado shelter in your garage, if you have a slab-on-dirt floor. They make shelters that allow you to still park a car over the buried steel shelter (the lid slides horizontally), and the location allows you to get the kids and the dog into the shelter wihtout going outside. NOTE: Be sure to tell the fire dept or sheriff that you have a shelter located there, so they know what part of the debris to remove to get you out (if your house goes down). And paint your house/street address # on the curb by the street, so they can identify the location if the whole neighborhood goes down.

      See http://www.tswstormshelters.com for a typical installation.

    • Or Washington. Better gun laws (than Texas, not better than Arizona–that would be awesome), no tornadoes, no fire ants, and trees!

      • Washington, almost as far left as Kommieforina….”sensible, gun control” coming to you soon. I’ve yet to figure out to whom it’s sensible, the 6 leftist loons that pee at a loud noise?

        • I lived in the Seattle area for about 3 years, and I’m up there a lot for business. Washington is a fairly sensible state, as these things go, and even Seattle isn’t as weirdly left as say Portland or San Francisco. In fact, I got to know several quite liberal folks who were into firearms. I always thought that the right to keep and bear arms is easier to explain to liberals in the context of civil rights; “guns for gays”, for example, or the history of black disarmament.

          It’s also interesting to note that getting my Washington CCW was much easier and took much less time than getting my Utah CCW, and Utah’s really not bad.

    • Utah’s good too!
      …til we get that epic earthquake we’ve been overdue for by 150 years or so.

      …actually, stay put for now. Might be for the best.

      • Yeah, Utah’s awesome, but please tell everyone it sucks. Starting to get a little more crowded than I like.

  2. Robert, take a Skywarn class next time it’s offered.

    Look up the radar application “radar scope” ($10 on apple App Store)

    Learn how to read radars, understand that squall lines in general don’t produce the massive EF-5 tornados you see in the news and generally if you are in a decently constructed home taking the generally well know precautions, minor bumps and bruises are all that SHOULD be had.

    Ya did well daddy-o

    Email me if you have any more questions regarding central texas weather

    Signed,
    Your average centex amateur meteorologist

    • I concur!

      The training from the National Weather Service in the Skywarn classes is invaluable. You’ll have a much better opportunity to interpret weather information once you know what to look for. It’s an added bonus if you pick up a radio scanner and listen to the amateur radio frequencies that Skywarn spotters use. I’ve been spotting for several years now and I feel much more comfortable in my car and on the move, because I’m in control of my location and aware of my surroundings (day time of course) rather then waiting at my house (which is without a basement or shelter) for something to pummel me. Skywarn was pretty much the sole purpose for me to get an amateur radio license, which was pursued after I had a close call. I can tell you that the spotters know what is going on well before the news media can get the word out.

  3. I’ve been in the middle of a tornado. Luckily we were unscathed. It skipped right over the house. I’d say you did what you could. Like carrying weapons…I don’t get people who WOULDN’T.

  4. Number of tornadoes in the US last year: 811
    Number of tornado deaths in the US last year: 55
    Number of tornado deaths in Austin: One — in fifty years!
    Number of people scared sh1tless by government and media fear-mongering: Uncountable.

    • Lol yup.

      You can tell RF is a transplant because I got the tornado warnings too. Guess what I did?

      Not a damn thing. Well, I mean other than turn off the computers because it was getting nasty looking outside.

      • I am Texas Born and Raised. We actually go out of our house and spot em and watch em if it is safe. I saw a nado form over my house and go two blocks down, pretty scary. I have also driven through OK while being chased by a few, that was interesting.

  5. I’d never seen a tornado before I moved to Wyoming. The first summer I watched one form out over the grasslands to the west of me, standing in the kitchen looking out the window. I didn’t really understand the significance of the “noon whistle” that went on and on in the distance.

    I watched as it grew big, black and very menacing, then suddenly broke into a million parts and disapated into the evening air.

    Quite a spectical… but now when the siren sounds I go into the basement and wait until it stops. I’m curious, but not really that dumb. 🙂

  6. We were dealing with it in Cedar Park, too. We’ve got a room all picked out, ironically on the other side of the wall from where the gun safe is bolted to the floor.

    And I was ready to do whatever it took to maximize the chances of my family’s survival. Just like I do when I pull a pistol out of the gun safe and slip it into a holster. Just like I do when I make sure that the guns are either locked away, in a holster, or in pieces on the workbench. I’m not going to leave them where the kids can get to them. Because I love my family, and I will go through hardship and difficulty to protect them.

  7. I agree with Pheonix… take a Skywarn Class, contact your local Ham Radio group, they will be able to tell you where and when. We attend them annually, then again we do dumb crap, when you hear the weather guy saying a trained spotter or ham radio spotter… that would be one of us idiots. But NWS does put on some really good training… and you can’t beat the price.

    And for God’s sake get that pink whatever it is outta “the library” room before someone snips a corner from you man card :)))

  8. RF – I very likely am just down the figurative and literal road from you in last night’s mini-me version of Tornado Alley. I too huddled – in this case an interior closet with bathrooms on either side of it. I told the same truths to my boy, and I suspect a version of the same lies, for the same reasons. Wife, child, dogs, me, a weather radio, a flashlight with fresh batteries, three days of water and a week of food (to be fair, most of the that is just what’s in our grab-n-go bag already in this closet). And one other addition: my XDM .40 strapped in a deep concealment rig under my arm, in case something really did hit, and we had to deal with the aftermath, whatever it might be. It’s easy to say it’s unlikely, and I know that’s true. But I sat there watching that very same line of storms which DID produce a verified tornado, with all those “storm track” arrows pointing directly at my house, and you caught that feeling very well in your piece. Sometimes the odds go the other way – which of all the people on the intertubes, the folks here should know, given that so many of us carry in spite of the odds against us ever needing to use it.

  9. iPhone alert for tornados?
    WTF?!
    Seriously though, why not keep a small checker board, or other age appropriate game in your safe room to occupy the mind of the little one.

    • Mine sends alerts for felony suspects. Pretty annoying at 3 am, but the wife is pretty understanding. The presence of the alerts helped clear the way for more shooting time with the Mrs.

  10. “But I do not appreciate or approve of anyone’s desire to limit Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. By persisting in this endeavor they put our children at risk.”

    Yup – that’s the crux of it. If someone else prefers to put their safety and that of their children solely in the hands of the government, that’s their choice. But I must vehemently oppose their efforts to take my choice to do otherwise away from me.

  11. All smartphones made post 2010 have the ability to get severe weather alerts, amber alerts (missing childrens) and (you can’t block these like you can the other two) important messages from the POTUS (we done been nuked, Russia has fallen into the ocean, I just lost the entire GDP on a poker game)

  12. A storm safe?! Ridiculous!

    Simply post signage 1000′ feet out from your house in all directions which proudly declares your house and property as a “Tornado Free Zone.” Bam! Problem solved. You’re welcome.

    Sometimes you gotta think “inside the box.”

  13. The toilet paper pictured at the top of the story is hung in the incorrect over-the-back orientation.

    And as for those smart phone severe-weather alerts, we were in a training class this afternoon and one of those things went off like an effing klaxon and scared the shit out of five people that had their noses six inches away from an x-ray testing device.

    It’s the new phone piss-you-off thing I guess.

  14. This topic makes me wonder…assuming you have time to prepare, what firearm(s) would you bring with you to your shelter either because you just don’t want to lose them or you’re worried you might need them in the aftermath My wife thinks I’m crazy when I lug my firearms into the storm shelter!

    • Makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen tornado aftermath firsthand. Don’t even pretend you can 9-1-1 if looters show up.

  15. RF – I lived a few years in SW Oklahoma, heart of tornado alley. Have a basic storm cellar of heavy gauge steel installed installed on your property or reinforce a room.

    When we were there, had a twister pass about a half mile from the house. Didn’t really hear it, felt it as more of a sub-sonic rumble. It wiped out the main powerline feed for the airbase and destroyed a few aircraft. No power for about four days wasn’t fun.

  16. Tornado’s are amazing, frightening, quizzical, and fickle creatures. In 3 million miles of truck driving, I have seen a few closer than I would like. Even had one pick up the chimney and drop it into the bathroom tub when I was a kid. With no cellar option, you did what you could. This time. Next time, some reinforcements will make you feel better. Do it.

    Guns. I have no wife. No kids. I can’t imagine the level of responsibility. On the other hand, I have neighbors and friends and their kids and grandkids. Whether it’s a tornado warning or something that goes bump in the night, they know that my house is the safest place to be.

  17. I’ve never been anywhere near a tornado. Up in Maine, snow is the killer. Fortunately, winter up here is only ten months long.

  18. no heated (much less padded) toilet seat RF??? I am disappointed well at the lack of padding. Also you hung your tp wrong.

  19. RF, you need some better protection against a tornado than an “interior bathroom”. I’ve personally seen what an F5 can do (Plainfield ’90) since then I never mess around with storms and always seek sub terra cover. As a previous poster said, either a storm shelter or reinforced room. You carry a gun… Don’t f around with the likelihood of Ma nature either.

  20. I think this article hits close to home for me in the manner of why I owns guns. At one point, I had sold off what guns I had because I never touched them, didn’t really care about guns, didn’t see the need for self defense in a nice neighborhood about 2 miles from Microsoft.

    Then I had a family. I understand that there are a lot of people who cannot/should not handle the responsibly of a firearm. It should be a personal choice and I choose to be ready to protect my family. How can I not do everything in my power to do so?

    My town doesn’t have a police force. The county sheriff has 2 deputies assigned to the town. Total. That puts average response times around 45 minutes. A lot can happen in 45 minutes.

    Long rambling post… I’ll never know kung fu or krav maga or be able to kick the local methheads’ asses if they come into my house. So I choose to be armed. Both lethal and non lethal options.

  21. A tornado is like artillery or AAA. It’s not personal, it’s just business. Best you can do is go deep or run. Either way, if it’s your time, it’s your time…just don’t be around anyone when it’s their time.

    We got lightening, thunder and wind last night but not a drop of rain…Everything passed just SE of us.

  22. Your toilet paper is just fine the way it is. Everyone is right about one thing though, and that’s the need to take a NWS Skywarn class. They are interesting, you get lots of good info, meet some good people and best of all, they’re free. Also, investing in a storm shelter in your garage or just outside your back door is probably a good idea too. Good job with Lola by the way.

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