Letter: Concerns on Chemicals During Tornados

Dear editors,

Our family includes small, climbing, curious children, and so all our hazardous chemicals are on high shelves in our first-floor utility/laundry room (the one space we have in our home that is currently inaccessible to them).

I recently have been wondering what would happen if a tornado were to hit our house – we have numerous chemicals that are not to be mixed with the others on pain of toxic clouds of death. On the other hand, tornadoes are hardly precision instruments (the bleach might as well end up 30 miles away as on top of the ammonia, for example). What are the SurvivalBlog reader’s thoughts on whether this is worth being concerned about?

Thanks for your service to all, – M.R.


  1. Having lived through an F-5 on April 3, 1974 I can say if a tornado hits your house you are going to have a lot bigger problems than chemicals and where they’ll end up. Most of my neighborhood was destroyed and a few home absolutely nothing was left but the foundation. 4 people died about a mile away and just indescribable destruction! I have a tornado shelter in my current house and it gives me piece of mind. Perhaps you can look into that and store your chemicals there?

  2. A simple test for your concerns would be the history of household chemical accidents during tornado’s. I’ve not heard of any.
    M’thinks it’s a case of much ado about nothing.

  3. Not one of my top priority worries…. You’ll be far more concerned trying to find any of your lost family heirlooms.
    I have seen 6 tornados in my time. Only worries were getting the heck out of the way or heading down the basement.!

  4. From experience, household chemicals will probably not be a problem – although anytime you go into a confined space, you should ventilate well before you expose anybody. [Example – pool chemicals] Bigger issue can be farm chemicals – the concentrations, amounts and types of chemicals can cause a problem. Don’t go into somebody else’s space unless you’ve got the experience and training to assess hazards and be safe. You should know your own chemical hazards on your own property. If you don’t, get trained.

  5. For the Tornado to get to and break open the chemicals, it will generally also make sure the area is well ventilated – the walls, roof, cabinets, and the rest will be scattered.

  6. Post-tornado, there will be a concerns about a hazardous environment in the immediate area, in that immediate aftermath. Three immediate exposure concerns exist. The first is physical/immediate, as in exposed and downed electrical line (electrical shock, source of ignition), leaking gas lines and/or propane tanks. There should be concerns for unstable ground, overhead hazards (e.g. Trees and power poles). The second is airborne (i.e. It can reach you without you moving) in the form of natural gas, mostly. The small quantites of household hazardous chemicals we typically store, will more then likely be dissipated by the violence of a “near miss” from a tornado, and fears of toxic clouds of bleach and chlorine mixing have not been seen or reported in recent tornado strikes. The third, and greatest risk is probably what is on the ground a mix of jagged debris, septic/sewer effluent and household hazardous products. So, watch where you walk and what you touch, store or have readily t hand, sturdy boots, gloves and N95 particulate masks.

  7. Consider working to remove toxic cheminals from your family home. Research nontoxic cleaning items and slowly replace things which will create a toxic spill to things, which when mixed, create a much less toxic environment.

    Also. As others have already mentioned – this is not likely the biggest concern. How is your storm shelter? Insurance? Provisions to live if your house blows away?

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