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Can I Use My Tornado Shelter During a Flash Flood?

a residential area with standing flood waters. No street is visible.

You are under a flash flood warning, and it is pouring rain outside. Suddenly, you hear the sound of tornado sirens. Should you use an underground tornado shelter?

The answer is a bit more complex than one might imagine.

This situation actually occurred in Big Sandy, Texas, on the morning of August 22, 2022, as a tornado was sighted just southwest of the town.

First, if you are in an area that is at a “high” risk of flash flood warning warning that shows a purple streak going through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.flash floods, as posted at the National Weather Service’s flash flood forecast site, it is a good idea to create a “go kit” for your family. (On the map shown here, that area is in purple.) This kit would include materials crucial to your family that can be easily transported. To put yours together, include items like a change of clothes, underwear, some cash, and, perhaps, small family heirlooms. The purpose is so you can toss it in your car to quickly move your family to higher ground if a flash flood warning is issued.

Generally, in these situations, one or more flash flood shelters will be opened by local authorities. Those are good destinations in a flash flood.

But what if you are in simultaneous flash flood and tornado warnings? Do you go to an underground shelter? This is a risk that would have to be personally weighed. At Survive-A-Storm, if your area is prone to both risks, we advise you to consider purchasing an above-ground shelter versus an underground shelter.

While the shelter is tornado-proof, there is the possibility it would be dangerous to exit if there is a water buildup or flowing water begins to flow over the shelter by the time the tornado warning is over. In that situation, it might be better to stay inside your home and go to an interior closet or a bathroom in the middle of the house.

If you have an above-ground Survive-A-Storm Shelter, it can be used normally.

By the way, the August 21 Big Sandy tornado mentioned above quickly lifted, and there was no significant damage. Only a metal outbuilding was destroyed. There were no injuries. Still, it was a reminder that Mother Nature can throw curveballs and create more than one hazard at a time.

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