What's in *your* closet?

It's that time of year again, Minions. Those of you in Tornado Alley know what I'm talking about firsthand. Those of you not in the Alley know what I'm talking about thanks to the coverage of what happened in Granbury and Moore.

The Disaster Closet at Chez Jo is up and running once again. Hooray.

What, you might ask, is a Disaster Closet? Is it a closet where you keep your Bai Ling costumes? Your emerald-green eyeshadow? The mutant cakes that failed to rise?

Nope. It's where the cats and I go (and eventually The Boyfiend and The Dog, if ever the latter shows up) when the sky turns the same color as that eyeshadow and the sirens blow.

It's not common around here to have tornadoes, but tornadoes are not the problem ninety percent of the time. I once heard a storm-spotter describe a tornado as a sneeze in the middle of a really bad thunderstorm, and that's true. The majority of the time, damage in storm-hit areas comes from straight-line winds, hail, and--the big danger--flying debris.

That's why they say to get into an interior closet or bathroom with no windows. Trees falling, debris flying around--those are much more likely to injure or kill you than a direct hit from one of Mother Nature's sneezes.

Besides, if you take a direct hit from a twister, even a small one, there's not a lot your house will do to protect you.

(A quick aside, as people are surely thinking this: "Why a closet? Why not a basement or storm cellar?" In this part of the country, Austin north to OKC, it's difficult if not impossible to dig basements. We have three types of impediment: heavy clay soil, a layer of quartz or limestone between two and ten feet thick, and high water tables. Safe rooms are common in larger buildings, but it's damned near impossible to excavate deep enough even for a small storm shelter, let alone a basement. It's perverse to think that we settled the most dangerous part of Tornado Alley without figuring that out, but there you are.)

Anyway, and this is not bad advice for anybody anywhere anytime, it's a good idea to have a central location for Stuff You Might Need Later. Here's what I put in mine (all of this fits on a shelf above my head):

1. Weather radio with flashlight and cellphone charger. It's solar- or crank-powered and gets good reception even in the D.C.

2. A couple of big bottles of water. If the forecast looks particularly bad, I might stick a six-pack in there, too. (Only sort of kidding.)

3. First aid kit with pressure dressings and so on.

4. Insurance paperwork for me, the house, and the car.

5. Extra medications, extra contact lenses, extra pair of glasses.

6. A prybar. No, really. It's great to have a shelter from bad weather, but on the offchance that my roof caves in or blows away, I want to be able to get *out* as well.

7. The cats' carrier. They both go into one.

Everything except the carrier can either go on the shelf or, more likely, be slung in a cross-body bag and put on my person. So far, I haven't had to use the Disaster Closet in its fullest capability, but there's little sense in being unprepared.

Which reminds me of a funny story: a couple of years ago, we were having some pretty intense weather. Hail was hitting the sides of the house rather than the roof, the winds were so strong. Max and the boys and I were riding it out in the living room, waiting to see if the weather guys blew the sirens. When the sirens went off, Max fixed me with the stinkeye, then went to the closet, pried open the door with his claws, and went in. I followed him.