Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tornado Alley...Getting Prepared

Warner Bros & Paramount Pictures
One of the first things Wifey was concerned about when we decided to move to Oklahoma was the tornadoes. Our decision to move occurred just days before the massive EF5 Tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma just a few short weeks ago. That's when she declared:

"I'm not moving over there with the girls unless you have a tornado shelter in place."

Having grown up in Edmond and northern OKC, I lived with the threat of tornadoes for my first 21 years of life. We never once had a tornado shelter that I'm aware of. I always assumed I'd be hunkering down in the bathtub if one came my way. I'd seen their destruction but I don't recall too many coming close to the house. Maybe a few...

My high school, Edmond Memorial (when there was only ONE high school in Edmond), had the football field hit by one but I don't recall it doing too much damage. I guess when you grow up with a threat like that, it just kind of becomes part of life. Since Wifey grew up in Arizona, she wasn't having any of this tornado nonsense.

Handy cell phone apps use GPS
And I agree. Especially now that I have a family. Whatever we end up living in, we'll have a shelter nearby. In the meantime, I'm working on tornado AWARENESS. I want to know WHEN that sucker is getting close to my neck of the woods. So, I've begun to set up a personal notification network.

First, the cell phone. A quick check on the Google Apps and I have several decent options of apps to choose from. The American Red Cross has several highly recommended apps such as:  First Aid, Hurricane, Earthquake, Wildfire & Tornado. I started with the Tornado app and followed the directions.

ARC's Tornado app allows you to add your location and several others that you want to monitor. It claims it will notify you of nearby tornado warnings, tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings and watches. For each location you set to be monitored, this app will send you alerts from the National Weather Service / NOAA.  If it sends a tornado warning, the traditional tornado SIREN will also sound on your phone. Installed and activated!

Hopefully, you're not one of those people that constantly has a dying phone battery. You need to get in the habit of having chargers at home, in your vehicle, and at work. I have my phone plugged in all night while sleeping and anytime I drive somewhere. I also plug it in at work when sitting stationary for long periods of time. Aside from that, I carry a backup battery charger that I bought off of Amazon called the XPal Backup. I reviewed it on my Gear Review page and HIGHLY recommend it. It is a battery pack that you can plug into your cell phone and it will charge your cell phone back to full battery multiple times. My XPal will charge my phone more than two times on a single charge. I plug it in regularly to make sure it stays fully charged. It has a handy "test" button that allows you to check the battery level at any time.

If you REALLY want to go the extra mile, you can buy a portable solar panel that will charge your batteries when all else fails. I bought a cheap mini panel and it stopped working after one month. I can recommend the Goal Zero Solar Panel. It is lightweight and very effective. It is on my Amazon wishlist. I also have a hand-crank NOAA radio with a built-in solar charging panel. This cool little gadget can also charge your cell phone and laptop with either the hand-crank or solar panel. For under $30, its a MUST HAVE. It is also on my Gear Review page.

My XPal, BaoFang Ham radio & fav beverage
Another line of defense I have been using is my newly acquired BaoFang UV-5F handheld ham radio. I picked two of them up for about $30 each on Amazon with intentions to use them for communication with Wifey when cell phone service is down. I won't go into the wide world of ham radio here but suffice it to say, these little babies can reach a LONG way. I keep mine on its charger dock and tuned to the NOAA local weather channel. You may have heard it in the background in one of my YouTube videos. I tend to just leave it on for background noise. I can't stand the FM radio these days. It is just ALL commercials.

Hand-crank & solar powered NOAA radio

I may attempt to break into the world of home weather stations to monitor the weather conditions myself. I'm just not sure it is really necessary anymore with all the electronic gadgets (ham radio, smartphone, etc). But the idea intrigues me to know what is coming just by reading the signs of Mother Nature.

So this is the beginning of my tornado preparedness. If any of you have any other helpful advice, I'm sure Wifey would love me to learn it from you. Besides, nothing is more important to me than family safety. Which reminds me...where did I leave my loaded Glock...



New Farm Critter

King Snake - found this fella in front of the farm on the blacktop. Turns out he EATS the poisonous snakes, among other things. He's a keeper. More details on the Critter page.


Spider #872  - these spindley little amber colored (and always dead) spiders have been the most abundant upon arrival here at the farm. I've never seen one alive and I'm starting to wonder if these are OLD spiders that have died and withered up. They always appear so...whispy? Like, completely brittle and harmless. I haven't attempted to classify it yet but they are in EVERY cabinet, sink, nook, and cranny of this old farmhouse. This particular spider fell off the bottom of my Pringles can as I pulled it out of the over-sink cabinet.

Back Home Report

The days are ticking by...three weeks remaining until Uhaul day! Wifey took a break from packing up the house and treated the girlies to a day at the mall. We are a HUGE Disneyland family and almost always stop by The Disney Store. Today, they had dolls from the movie Brave for only $3 each. Well, of course, each girlie from Team Bravo needed her own.

L to R: Boo, Sis & Monster with Flower in front.

Do you see the smile on Sis's face? That's the smile that melts my heart <3 All of their smiles are precious. Boo has the traditional "cheese, I just SCORED." Monster's smile shows she couldn't BE happier. Flower's is like "OMG! Did you see this doll in my hand!" Miss them tremendously...

Found out a co-worker's hubby has a private recording studio in his house. Someday I'll get some good audio of Sis singing and show you how good she is. Anyway, it turns out this hubby needs someone to sing in his studio so he can learn how to adjust the controls for vocals. I quickly volunteered Sis and when I told her, she was pretty excited.

I'll have to check in with Macky and The Queen tomorrow. As I write this, it is after midnight and (hopefully) they are all in bed. There's a new Rick Riordan book out that Macky would probably love to add to her personal library (over 100 books). The Queen is probably hanging out with her neighbor friends as much as possible before the big move.

Come on July 31st! Our M-Day (Moving Day).

New Farm Rules

#16) Don't leave the house while talking on your cell phone. You will forget something important! Learned here.

#17) Just because there are no speed limits signs on backcountry roads doesn't mean you can drive as fast as you want (66 in a 55). However, having a Jeep with six containers full of fuming, noxious gasoline might help you convince Mr. Sheriff to let you move along to your barn...before you both pass out. Thanks for the warning Mr. Sheriff!


  1. What is your ham call? Mine is wb3dzy, the "dzy" part is where I get my nickname. Other hams gave it to me back in the '70's. Those look like uhf/vhf radios and are only good for line of sight or through repeaters. Don't think you will talk from Oklahoma to Arizona with them.

    My wife told me to tell you to put in a fruit and vegetable celler. Her friend has one and it doubles as a storm shelter. Already has food in it all it needs is you and some water.

    1. Wb3dzy - taking the ham test is on my to-do list. I bought the hams for use with repeaters but I still need longer antennas. When I bought them, I only worked 4 miles from home (as the crow flies.) Cellar for sure. Storm shelter / cellar High on the to-do list. Tell your wifey "OJD says THANK!"

    2. ... that's THANKS, stupid Auto-correct..

  2. One more suggestion. I bought a pair of walkie talkies that do not require a liscens for my wife and I when we go camping. They have a fair range and don't cost a lot.

    1. Me too. We use them at Disneyland sometimes. Often though, we would pick up other folk's broadcasts. Now they're packed up.

  3. Just got all caught up after a week away from the Internet. I'm glad to see everything is progressing! I was happy to see you got the tractor running. I love old metal! I liked site 7 for the garden( west of the barn). It seems like it would get the most sun but house placement will determine a lot. My advice is start small, especially since you might be moving your site.
    Chris from NC

    1. I should start small but you know how hard that will be! Glad you're back.

  4. When I read about a storm shelter I immediately thought of the monolithic dome homes that, had I been younger with an interested spouse, I would have liked to go and learn to build. They are virtually storm proof by reason of the building materials and the actual structure. They can be as simple as a cabin to a huge mansion. And you can start small and add on.
    Here is the website if you are interested.

  5. OJD,

    Open the windows when your driving down the road hauling gasoline, that helps.

    also, it may be time to see if that wonderful old Ford Pickup in the barn will fire up with some help.
    You can carry, many, many gas cans and other gear with that old Ford. My guess is that old Ford is a 73' Those were some good years for that truck.

    You need a farm truck, I think the Ford with some work and new tags, insurance etc will give your family many more years of faithful service if maintained well.

    Tex Texan.

    1. Oh I HAD to have the windows open or I would have choked out for sure (as much as that Jeep bounces, it was sloshing out).

      The truck's a 1979 Chevy Silverado. I found the owner's manual in the glove box mixed in with lots of rats' nest material... and poop.

      Uncle just found the key Sunday. It needs a new battery and old gas drained for sure. All I've done so far is air up a few tires.

  6. Those are the exoskeletons of spiders who have molted. Evidence that they are well-fed and getting bigger.


    1. Ugh.. NOT what I wanted to hear. But thanks

  7. Might want to become familiar with the habits and appearance of the brown recluse, Spider #872 looks kinda like one and they probably have loved having the premises to themselves.

    Enjoying your journey via the blog, thanks for sharing and, best of luck!

    BTW, good habit of regularly keeping the phone charging, don't know how the signal is where you are, but there are corners of the world not far from you that will eat a cell charge in short order looking for signal.

    1. You're the second person to mention brown recluse spiders. Guess I better keep spraying.

      I'm writing a post right now about the cell phone issues I am having with Verizon and their poor coverage out here.

  8. I understand Wifey's concern...however having grown up in MO, I've seen up close and personal my share of tornados. I heaved a sigh of relief when I drove west to WA with my children. Then I realized I was basically surrounded by volcanos. We moved to TX the next year and our NOAA radio was constantly going off with tornado warnings. But worse was the grass fires. Now we live in WY and when we lived out on the prairie we had fire and tornado threats. We kept our place policed up, mowed (horses are great for this!) and had plans in place and on more than one occasion, I got a call from the tweenagers that they were under the stairs (earth contact home, up against N concrete wall) with the toddler waiting for the storm to pass. Now we live in the Big Horns and we had 4 massive hail storms that did two years of income worth of damage, killed four horses down the road and that was just in one day. My brother ordered and installed a new weather station and two days ago we got hit by lightning. Weather station fried, some minor damage to other things (LED bulbs that should have lasted a lifetime blown out) but we were all fine and we didn't burn down! It's always something.

    I remember many summer afternoons in the grandparents root cellar. We had flashlights and jars of pickles, pickled beets, preserves (don't forget the bread on your way through the house!) and it was the coolest place on the farm. Build on for your ladies and put one of those dvd players and movies down there. We just told scary stories which I now don't suggest.

    Saw a massive bull snake at the gun range last night. Beautiful animal. I like them more than spiders as they don't come in my house and get under my pringles can.

    Blessings to your and yours, OJD.


    1. After working a 16 hour shift, I'm now stuck in an 8 hour awareness training class. Thanks for the distraction and giggle.

  9. I'm pretty sure your spider is a Brown Recluse. Brown Recluse spiders are bad. They love to hide in woodpiles, in dark corners, and in bedding (Very scary when you find one on your pillow). I've done battle with them here for over a year now. We have a friend who got bit by a Brown Recluse in May and was out of work for 8 weeks because of the damage done by the spider. For now, I turn on the lights in our basement for a good 10 minutes before I attempt to clean/move anything so they'll skedaddle somewhere else. Keep spraying, and check the web for natural spider predators. You might be picking up some chickens earlier than you thought!

  10. I am also a ham. If you are concerned about OPSEC I would suggest not giving out your call sign.

    If you choose to give it out, I would at least make sure the public call-sign databases out there online show a P.O. Box that you have previously rented.

  11. Real life tornadoes are much more dangerous and devastating as compared to those which we see in animated movies


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