Tornadoes and Apartments or Condos

Funnel Cloud over Bill Myhren's Condo
Funnel Cloud over Bill Myhren’s Condo Complex

Recently the Denver office has been hammered by a series of severe thunderstorms. We can practically set our watches by the severe weather alert/tornado siren/or hail storm around 3pm to 5pm every afternoon. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this past weekend, I found myself in a predicament that I had never been in before: What does one do when they live in a house, apartment, condo, or anything else above the ground floor, without a basement, for shelter during a tornado warning? Growing up, I was always taught that I should seek shelter in a basement, ditch, or other low-lying area during a tornado warning. This isn’t really an option where I live (just west of metro Denver) and I had never really considered my shelter options since we typically don’t see tornadoes here (the last recorded tornado even remotely close to Lakewood was an F2 in 1981).

Based on what I had been taught, I left my second-floor condo and thought my best option for cover was to stand in a corner below my balcony where there is an intersection of 2 concrete walls. This did not provide a whole lot of protection from the hail and certainly not from the lightning! After everything had more or less cleared out (and I was soaked), I returned to my condo and was scolded by a friend from Texas about my less-than-perfect shelter plan.

So, here is what I recommend. Check out these websites which are much more comprehensive and can offer advice that I cannot if you find yourself in a tornado:

I was lucky that the funnel clouds eventually passed over my head without touching down, but next time, I will know to grab the key to my neighbor’s unit below me and take cover in a hallway.


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