Given that we live in Texas, and that we live in a fifth wheel, having a storm shelter in place before we move to the farm is a very important concern for us. We have been through several designs, and I’ll explain what we’ve decided on and why.
Most people, when they think of storm shelters, think of shelters that are underground. This doesn’t work in Texas for a couple reasons. First, tornadic storms are usually accompanied by incredibly heavy rainfall, and the soil in Texas can’t absorb the rain fast enough. We’ve seen our land subject to flash flooding and know that if we put a shelter underground, we might be safe from a tornado, but the shelter could quickly fill with water and drown us inside. As that seems like a terrible fate, we moved on to other methods of safety from storms.
We own three shipping containers; two are 40′ long and one is 20′ long. Andrew built out the inside of the 20′ container (put in insulation and interior walls and an interior door) and will use it as his office once we move to the farm. The other two containers are for storage; one is for our use and one is for my in-laws.
Our current plan is to use these containers for our storm shelter, and to anchor them super firmly in the ground. We debated between traditional concrete piers and helical piers, and decided on the helical piers. The installer is coming to the property this week to have a look at our conditions. We are going to put four piers in the ground for each of the 40′ containers, and cut them to level. They will sit 18′ apart. Then we (and by “we” I mean “the professional we hire”) will weld a 10″ steel plate to the top of each pier. Then we (and by “we” this time I mean “Andrew”) will rent a huge tractor to lift each container into place, upon which the professional welder will weld the container to the pier. And then Andrew will lift the 20′ container on top of the other two so that they make a large U shape. The 20′ container will also be permanently welded in place. We will make a staircase up to the top, and that will be our storm shelter. Each of the piers is rated to hold 20,000 lbs, so if/when a tornado does come through, those buildings are not going ANYWHERE.
We staked out the corners of each container on the ground this past week, and it is exciting to imagine the containers moving into place soon!