Ross: The high cost of figuring out how to make our lives disaster-proof

Dec 14, 2021, 6:51 AM | Updated: 9:57 am
Tornado, disaster...
Voluteers help Martha Thomas, second left, salvage possessions from her destroyed home, in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the region, in Mayfield, Ky. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

My first big news story was a tornado. I was at WSB in Atlanta on March 24, 1975, when a tornado chewed across the northwest part of the city, killing three people and ripping off the roof of the governor’s mansion.

Governor George Busbee famously told a reporter that he was seated in the upstairs commode when suddenly, the roof disappeared.

I was in the news car looking for damage until the rain made it impossible to drive and I had to pull over, as the power lines sparked and the air began to smell of natural gas.

The pictures from Kentucky this week brought back that feeling of helplessness, and I found myself looking up tornado-proof homes. They do exist. One Danish design is an aerodynamic retractable pod that would actually sink into the earth when the winds get too strong. Another idea is a reinforced concrete Hobbit house built into a hill.

However, there are also ways to make normal looking homes tornado resistant. Insurance companies have developed something called the “Fortified Standard,” where the roof is tied to the walls, and the walls are tied to the foundation.

But it’s tough to persuade homebuyers to pay for that kind of protection, because even in tornado-prone areas, you’re much more likely to die slipping in the bathtub than in a tornado.

If there is an ultimate tornado-proof house – it has to be one at a place called the Cabins at Maple Rock near Branson, Missouri, designed to take a direct hit from an EF5 tornado. It’s made with 200 tons of concrete, but it looks like it’s made entirely of real wood and natural stone, with spectacular high-beamed ceilings.

And yet, nobody appears to have bought it.

It went on the market in 2018 for $795,000, according to Zillow; a pending sale fell through, two months ago the price was dropped to $745,000, … and then last month the listing was removed.

So there are ways to make your life disaster-proof … it’s just that once we see the cost, most of us accept that we’ll just have to take our chances.

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Ross: The high cost of figuring out how to make our lives disaster-proof