NORMAN — The tornado that cut a path through Cleveland County this past April was a wake-up call for many residents. As we watched spring tornadoes form all around Norman, some residents clung to the false belief that we were somehow immune to twisters.
Now, as storm season approaches, city leaders are encouraging residents to make plans to “shelter in place” and not attempt to travel to a city shelter. The four designated shelters — Whittier, Cleveland, Irving and Little Axe recreation centers — filled to capacity on April 13.
Advance warnings are giving residents time to get to a designated shelter. But the shelters quickly became problematic. Residents brought pets. Visitors from other communities headed to Norman. If the twister is on a school day during school hours, how do the school kids stay separated from the population at large? In short, the situation became unsafe.
The shelter in place movement comes from the notion that most injuries occur to persons who are out traveling in the storm. Many of them are seeking shelter after leaving their homes or businesses. Oddly enough, if they had stayed in one place, their odds of not being injured or killed dramatically improve.
Families are encouraged to develop their own safe places, be it in basements, safe rooms, interior rooms or in a neighbor’s storm shelter. (One neighborhood in Norman recently built its own Safe Room storm shelter).
The city shelters will remain open this season but unless the city council takes other action, they will likely be closed in 2014. Families should plan now on the best way to “shelter in place.”