The basement is relatively safer than the rest of the house, but the wind forces that blew off the roof could also blow off the first floor - in other words, the basement's ceiling - exposing anyone taking shelter down there to flying debris, Tanner said.
"TV news meteorologists say that the only place is below ground [in a tornado] ... that is false, truly false," said Tanner.
The safest place to be in a tornado is in an above-ground storm shelter, said Tanner. These structures are usually made of reinforced concrete, but sometimes are made of plywood and steel. (See also: Futuristic Materials Could Build Tornado-Proof Homes)
At Texas Tech University and the National Storm Shelter Association, Tanner helps test and rate storm shelters. A full list of NSSA-approved engineering firms can be found on the organization's website.
The testing process involves using a wind cannon to blast 2-by-4-inch wooden planks at the shelters at up to 100 miles per hour.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers small subsidies for these shelters, which can be installed in a backyard or patio or even inside the residence as a sort of safe room.