As communities pick up the pieces, builders and homeowners take a closer look at safe rooms.
JOPLIN, Mo. – Harold Noirfalise used to curse the big steel box in the garage of his Joplin home. It was there when he and his wife, Brenda, bought the house a couple years ago. The box shared space with a pickup, a car and a workshop where he built radio-controlled model airplanes, making for a crowded garage.
Noirfalise stopped cursing the box after May 22, the day a huge tornado destroyed thousands of buildings and claimed more than 150 lives in Joplin. The steel box—actually a tornado safe room—may have saved his life. “I’ll never say a bad word about it again.”
Noirfalise was home alone when the tornado sirens sounded. Just before his TV went dark, he learned that a monster twister was headed his way. He had just enough time to dash across the street to warn neighbors then grab his dog and hurry inside the safe room. “Right when I shut the door, put the pin in and sat down in the chair, I could hear my roof leaving.”