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Closets, bathrooms still standing after tornadoes

Posted November 19, 2008

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— Emergency officials said lives were saved by people taking refuge in interior rooms – like a closet or bathroom – when tornadoes struck Johnston and Wilson counties Saturday.

David Batton, of Kenly, said he ran to the middle of the house to take cover during the storm. Others reported lying on the floor of their homes and holding onto bedposts.

“It was just stuff flying through the home like a knife going through a piece of paper,” tornado survivor Alan Hooks said.

Following the tornadoes, all that was left standing of some homes was the interior rooms, said Derrick Duggins, Johnston County emergency management director.

“The interior walls are going to be the most sturdy walls because they’re the load-bearing walls of the house, and if you can get to that wall, you’re more protected,” Duggins said.

The goal during a tornado is to put as many walls as possible between yourself and outside. If in a two-story home, experts recommend getting to the bottom floor. If there isn’t a good, small interior room like a closet or bathroom, people should get under a sturdy table and cover their heads and necks.

Another tip is to not open windows.

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  • iamyeary Nov 19, 2008

    durham_nc

    I lived in an older house in Northern VT that had a "bomb shelter" in the basement surrounded by concrete cinder block walls and ceiling. There were two wooden bunk beds attached to the walls.
    It was always a conversation piece whenever new guests came to visit downstairs to our basement family room. We never needed to use it for any wind storms, (or bombings) but it did come in very handy to hide Christmas gifts from the kids.

  • chickentender63 Nov 19, 2008

    The interior walls are going to be the most sturdy walls because they’re the load-bearing walls of the house, and if you can get to that wall, you’re more protected,” Duggins said.

    While the interior rooms, mostly bathrooms and closets if possible, are the safest choice if you do not have a basement, with the newer houses having open floor plans very few of the interior walls are load bearing. On many of these designs built today, the only true load bearing walls on an open floor plan ranch home is going to be your exterior walls and some of your bedroom walls.

    It would be very wise for people to consider this when building and build with a basement if at all possible. If not, try and create a "safe room" if budget allows. The large open living areas that we are building today all have beams and engineering that transfers all loads to exterior walls.

  • durham_nc Nov 19, 2008

    It sure would be nice if more houses had basements...

  • Gab Nov 19, 2008

    I remember crouching down inside a closet and praying during a couple of eastern NC storms many years ago. I was really terrified; it looked like hell had blown up over my home. I'm glad to read that it really does save lives.