Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oklahoma and Tornadoes - Homestead Land in Tornado Alley

For the longest time I planned on building my sustainable homestead in Oregon. The land I planned on being in the south-central area of Oregon not far outside Klamath Falls. However, upon closer inspection of building codes and some water rights issues, I have reconsidered and that had me looking for land in places I had never considered.

I follow several podcasts and blogs about both homesteading and tiny houses, and this has connected me with some great new folks who have offered up some suggestions for where to look for land. One has suggested her state, Oklahoma. So, yesterday I began doing some exploring of options in Oklahoma, a state I have driven through several times, but never considered as a place to call home. All I knew of Oklahoma was Indian Reservations and tornadoes.

I was right about Indian Reservations as there were many Native tribes both naturally from the area and forced by our government's misguided attempts at relocation of tribes and peoples back in the dark decision making period of our early history. Oklahoma had land rushes as well, so homesteading in Oklahoma is nothing new, not by far. The dust bowl was a hard lesson we also learned in Oklahoma. 1930's taught us important environmental lessons and resulted in some strategic changes in farming practices.

Oklahoma has much to offer the modern homesteader. Land is reasonably priced, it is not too densely populated, water can be found easily when drilling, there are plenty of natural resources, and for the most part, the land is flat in the west and gently rolling hills in the east. However, there is still the little issue of tornadoes.

Did you know that tornadoes are not unique to America? I was taught in school that they are an American phenomena due to our unique terrain and the size of our nation. Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands all get struck by Tornadoes as well. While they are not as common in other places around the world, our geography makes tornadoes possible with more frequency. Weather moves in from the west, drops down from the rocky mountains dry, gathers strength and moisture from the south and cold air from the north as it rolls across the flat midsection we Americans have affectionately labeled "Tornado Alley." Solar heating the storms causes the right combination of energy and, boom, a tornado forms.

I have never seen or experienced a Tornado, so I asked a ton of questions about them. I poked around on the internet and here is some of what I learned about Tornadoes and living in OK:

  • Oklahoma is fourth in line for most frequent Tornadoes. It is behind Texas, Kansas, and Florida.
  • Western OK is more likely to get hit by Tornadoes because of it's flatter lands. Tornadoes love flat land and follow the path of least resistance. Tornadoes like to follow Interstate areas since most interstate highways follow the path of least resistance.
  • Lincoln Country (where I am looking at land) has only been hit by three F4 or F5 Tornadoes since the 1950's. It is very infrequent and none of the events could be compared to the massive Tornado that hit Moore, OK in May 2013.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecasters - OK has some of the best. Take the advice of the weather forecasters - When they say go to a shelter, go. When they say get out of the way of the storm, get out of the way.
  • The odds of having your home destroyed by a Tornado are pretty small. There is a lot of land out there. 

What does this mean for me? Well, it means that I am not sacrificing my dreams of a homestead simply because there is the potential for a bad storm. Storms mean rain. Rain means water. Water is life. I have found a new piece of land, one that even has a pond on it, and I think it is a go. My sense of determination and purpose is stronger than an F5 Tornado. Besides, at least with a Tiny House,  I can hook it up to the back of my truck and drive it to a safe area. I can wait out the storm in the living room of my tiny house, chilling in a Walmart parking lot. I am sure there are many who wish they could do the same.

Check out this amazing footage of the Moore, OK Tornado from May of 2013:


  1. This was such an informative post. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. I admire your tenacity in chasing after your dream - but do be careful! I was just watching coverage of the latest tornadoes on the news last night - scary! Of course, if your house is mobile... :)

  3. Nothing about life is certain. And when we don't act in spite of uncertainty we can miss out on a lot of beauty that life has to offer. I hope where you wind up is magnificent and safe.

  4. Welcome to Oklahoma! Maybe... :o) I don't like it when they get close but they are magnificent to watch. I think so many people are fascinated by them because it is such a raw display of the power of nature. Beautiful and terrifying at the same time. They certainly give you an appreciation for the power of Mother Nature.

    1. I have been hooked on watching YouTube videos of tornadoes now. You are so right! They definitely give one an appreciation for the power of Mother Nature. Some of those storm chasers are NUTS!

  5. We had around 13 minutes warning last year. I live in Moore and it is a great community for families in spite of the risk of storms, but have a better plan for safety than hooking up and leaving, just in case.

  6. Hey there! I found this post while looking into homesteading and Oklahoma! I would love to read an update on what you decided and how 8t is going!