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Should the city require a basement or storm shelter be built in all new houses?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on February 22, 2005

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Photo of Willie Backus

“No, I don’t see why they should. The city shouldn’t force contractors to build more expensive homes.”

Photo of Craig Comstock

“Yes, because of all the large rentals in Lawrence. Those people need protection from tornadoes, as well.”

Photo of Kristen Wirsig

“No. People in Kansas don’t go into their basements for tornadoes. They go out and watch them on their porches.”

Photo of Lee Heeter

“Yes. It sounds like a good idea, because it’s a safety concern. Doesn’t the government have a responsibility to the people to keep them safe?”


italianprincess 13 years, 3 months ago

We are from Cali, so when we moved here I looked for a house to rent that had a basement.

I'm not one for watching a tornado ( as much as I want to see one ) and will take my kids down there when the siren goes off.

We have had to go down there twice now since 97, and will use it when needed. I feel safer down there then up in the house.

As far as the city making people build houses with them. I would say that should be left up to the owner. Its not the city that should be deciding this anyway. Haven't they decided on a few things for us anyway? Let the make that choice.

Redneckgal 13 years, 3 months ago

Just more "big brother" trying to take care of us. Actually I have a basement but frankly I've never been in it because of a tornado. My house is 80 years old and big. I just have visions of the whole house coming in on me in a tornado. I head out on the front porch when a tornado comes. My husband and my 2 older kids head to the truck because their storm spotters.

crohan1978 13 years, 3 months ago

If everyone thought like Willie up there, we would be in trouble. Now we shouldn't put stuff into house that will make you safer, just because it will make the house more expensive? So if that is the case, is he saying we should toss safety to the side for lower cost? I am sure if they removed seat belts from cars, cars would be cheaper too, oh, and if they removed the safety valves from hot water heaters, that would make water heaters cheaper too, who cares if they blow up instead.
What is this nut talking about?? Do I believe basements should be required? No, but I do believe some form of underground shelter should be, so if it is some 6x10 room or something, that is better than nothing.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 13 years, 3 months ago

Well...I have to respectfully disagree with that idiot, Lee Heeter. PEOPLE have a responsibility to keep themselves safe, not the government. He's one of those people that would probably sue McDonald's because they don't have a large "Caution: Hot" symbol on their coffee cups...

kansas 13 years, 3 months ago

I don't know if new houses should be "required" to have basements....But I'll tell you what.....I wouldn't live in a house (new home or older home) that didn't have a basement, that's for darn sure!!---Especially in rural Kansas where safe places to hide from a tornado are few and far between!! I would think that if you lived out on some farm in central Kansas, or say, southeastern Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, you'd want your place to have either a basement or shelter of some kind! You'd be insane not too!!

tell_it_like_it_is 13 years, 3 months ago

Basements are lot of care and expense when a house gets older and sometimes even when they are not so old. Believe me I learned that the hard way. I think a storm cellar is your best bet. Have to admit it though I'm a front porch person myself. I kind of like to see whats coming at me not be stuck in some basement wondering whats going on outside.

ms_canada 13 years, 3 months ago

We had a tornado in our city 20 years ago. It tore an industrial area and a mobile home park all to bits and killed 27 people. We don't get very many twisters, but from the posts it sounds as though you get quite a number of them in Kansas. Visiting my sister in both Calif. and Montana, I noticed one large difference in the housing in those states and in housing here in Alberta. No basements down south and here EVERY house built has a full basement. That is the norm. And most of them are finished. By that I mean with rooms. I have a bathroom, bedroom and family room in my basement. That is the usual. I have never liked basements and said that if I had a choice I would build a house without one, but on the off chance that we would get a tornado here, I suppose I would be better off with a basement.

dakota 13 years, 3 months ago

I think a lot of people are missing what the question asked: Should the city require a basement OR STORM SHELTER be built in all new houses? They aren't talking only about requiring basements, which I agree would be cost prohibitive and silly, but storm shelters as well. Most homes can have an interior room, such as a bathroom, converted to a storm shelter. We researched fairly heavily when we were considering purchasing a home without a basement. The average cost is around $5000. So I don't think working it into a new house plan would cost all that much. If you check the city building codes there are a lot of things there for our protection, electrical codes to prevent your home from burning down, codes to prevent our homes from sliding down a hill--silly things like that. So to say it's "big brother" I think is a bit of a stretch.

Christy_K 13 years, 3 months ago

This is an unrealistic requirement because soil conditions in many parts of Lawrence make basements extremely expensive to make. Anyone proposing such an idea obviously needs to do some research on construction and soil types. It is cost prohibitive in many areas to build a basement for the contractor and home buyer.

A basement is not always an option for a homeowner and not having one is not a lack of responsibility by that homeowner. But it is their responsibility to have a plan for when disaster happens, such as a neighbor who does have a basement or shelter, a safe room, or plan to get to the emergency shelter.

The city could help by building a community shelter in areas where you can't build basements, but the community should also raise the funds themselves.

The city should be more concerned about apartment complexes and low cost housing areas where basements would price most people out of the neighborhood.

The last word, as most people said,no matter where you live,your safety is your responsibility.

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 13 years, 3 months ago

Basements and storm shelters shouldn't be required; certainly optional, though. Frankly, I'm amazed that people would choose to live in trailer parks in Kansas. Those things are tornado magnets.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 13 years, 3 months ago

Gootsie, you are also an idiot. Oh, by the way, way to be original with that whole "mean people suck" thing...

Richard Heckler 13 years, 3 months ago

Go the building codes and require all new homes will sustain tornadic activities. Buildings downtown could likely deal with tornadoes...isn't that what we expect?? What's good for downtown should work for residential especially where new crummy construction has taken place.

ms_canada 13 years, 3 months ago

Can I ask a question? Just how many tornadoes do you get down there? There seems to be a great deal of concern expressed about them today. I have lived in Alberta for 52 years and can only recall 2 tornadoes that did any damage. And a comment about basements - they are certainly not "a lot of care and expense" at least not here they aren't. If you have no basement, where do you put your furnace, storage, laundry area, your kitty litter tray. I guess it is a matter of what you are used to. If I moved to a house without a basement tomorrow, I would have to discard half of my furniture, half of my stored things and my 2 kitties. Another question, re Lawrence requiring basements or storm shelters in new construction. Who picks up the tab when your houses blow away in a tornado? The city? your insurance? How many lives are lost each year in your area because of tornadoes? Is a basement or shelter too high a price to pay for lives saved?

greater_good 13 years, 3 months ago

Exactly how far up one's own behind must one be, to think the city can and should approve such a measure? "Forget your 'numbers' ... I SAID, I'm worried about tornadoes! My kids are, too! And at least three of my friends!"

"If a lot of people had been killed in the 2003 tornado, everybody would have been about this proposal," Graves said. Jane, honey, I imagine your opponents thank you for the time you just saved them.

Redneckgal, "Big Brother" is planning to turn this proposal down. Better luck digging for evil liberal schemes next time.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 13 years, 3 months ago

Ms_Canada: We live in a part of the country known as "Tornado alley". Oklahoma and Texas are a little bit more centrally located to the "alley", but we're a part of it nonetheless. The reason it's called Tornado Alley is because the warm gulf air mixes with the cold stuff you all have up there, pretty much right over our heads. This mixing of warm and cold air creates tornadoes sometimes, especially in the spring.

Do we have a lot of tornadoes in Lawrence? No, we don't but many of the residents from Lawrence are from surrounding rural areas and, yes, they get their fair share. The last tornado we actually had in Lawrence was in 2003 and that was a wee baby by tornado standards. It tore the roofs off of some structures, rearranged a few cars, etc. Nothing that major fortunately. Now, if it had been an F5, we'd probably be singing a different tune...

As for how many tornadoes we get in this region per year, I would guess that Kansas alone receives about 20+ every spring. There's a reason they began the 'Wizard of Oz' in Kansas...

ms_canada 13 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for all the info Hong kong. 20+ every spring, wow!!!! No wonder so much concern there. I guess we here are pretty fortunate, the worst we get are a few thunder storms in the summer. If I lived there I would definitely have a basement and a storm cellar. We have a room with thick concrete walls and ceiling that is actually under our front porch and not really a part of our basement. It is designed as a cold room to keep veggies and canned fruit and beer and stuff. But it would make a good storm shelter. In fact when that tornado struck 20 yrs ago. We took a portable radio some candles and food and went down there.

Linda Aikins 13 years, 3 months ago

Hong Kong Phooey, you must not have much intelligence to share, because you have to resort to unnecessary name calling to fill your area.

Why do these blogs always have someone who has to be mean? Mean people suck.

Au_contraire 13 years, 3 months ago

Nobody has differentiated between general residential safety and what the insurance industry refers to as an 'act of god'.

Various building codes address the issues of safety as well they should. Nobody should have to occupy any dwelling which poses safety hazards.

As far as acts of god are concerned, will the City get involved in being sure that people living in a flood plain have an upper floor to climb to in the event of rising water? Of course not.

So as far as the City is concerned, hands off my house or new home construction regarding tornado shelters. It is up to my insurer to provide coverage in the event of storm damage, and up to me to know of a safe place to go in the event of a tornado.

Now, where were those candles?

lunacydetector 13 years, 3 months ago

this whole idea is pure lunacy. what else would the city require if this gets enacted?

lightning kills more people than tornados. how about a gigantic rubber mat under the foundation? or how about the city install towers around the city that shoot rockets into the air with wires attached to trap or attract the lightning during a thunderstorm?

albertatornado 12 years, 3 months ago

Well here in Alberta Canada we have different counties and when we have tornadoes we are issued warnings specified by a county. Here in Alberta we also live in tornado alley, and we get lots of tornadoes every year. but the reason we don't report many tornadoes is as follows: 1. Our lifestyle is to busy to watch the news all the time (Mostly true for me!) 2. we still not as populated as central tornado alley (midwest) 3. fore some reason when they update techological systems for weather forecasting, the U.S. is ahead of our technolagy systems. 4. many Albertans still don't know much about our tornado season wich is durring summer here not spring like the midwest states.

We also have Supercells here! The most common are HP (heavy Precipitation) Supercells which have very tall updrafts, but more rare are Classsic Supercells, but the rarest of all are the LP (light Precipitation) supercells exept for when it is a drought season.

Edmonton is in that path of the stormtrack.

Edmonton also still has tornado sirens mounted on poles and towers.

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