I just watched video of a large tornado bearing down on a temporary oil-boom shantytown near Watford, N.D. on May 26, 2014. The video was recorded by a guy living in one of the trailers that serves as housing for men working the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. While no one was killed, nine people living in the trailers were injured by the tornado.
As you watch the video (Warning: language NSFW) you’ll hear some guys laughing about the situation they find themselves in. I’m not going to fault them for that — my life has never truly been in danger, so I can’t say if I would laugh nervously or not. But this does highlight an ongoing and bigger problem when it comes to protecting yourself from severe weather.
Mobile homes and trailers are NEVER a safe place to be during a tornado or severe thunderstorm with destructive winds. In this case, I feel these guys were justified in leaving their temporary homes behind; I, too, would have chosen to take my chances in the steel safety cage and seatbelts provided by a vehicle. In fact, in 2009, the American Red Cross and National Weather Service jointly released a tornado-safety statement that advises — ONLY in the event that an underground storm shelter isn’t available — to get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
However, it boggles my mind that these guys stopped their truck and recorded the tornado. There’s no other way to describe it — that’s plain foolish.
I’m left with a few questions; why didn’t these guys just drive away from the tornado? Did they freeze from fear? Knowing they were in such a vulnerable position, with no permanent buildings to seek refuge, why didn’t they evacuate the work camp when the tornado warning was issued and before the storm was upon them? Did they not have access to National Weather Service warning information?
And, most importantly, do you know where you would seek shelter if a tornado hit where you work or go to school? A lot of us have a plan to take cover at home … but now is the time to have a plan in mind for other locations, too. It is, after all, tornado season around here.