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El Reno Opens New Storm Shelters To The Public

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El Reno opens new storm shelters El Reno opens new storm shelters
EL RENO, Oklahoma -

The city where the largest tornado ever recorded tore through is now opening up its new storm shelters to the public. El Reno taxpayers paid 45 million for the shelters, but the fire marshal hasn't approved them yet. But the city is not waiting.

In El Reno Friday, all of the new storm shelter doors were unlocked, the lights were on and the city was ready to protect its students and the public from any severe weather.

Three feet of concrete in every direction make El Reno's new storm shelters a safe haven from tornadoes.

“We can get every employee and every student here in five minutes or less,” Craig McVay, El Reno Schools Superintendent

There are five new storm shelters. They're located at each El Reno school. All of them have auxiliary air and power, bathrooms, fire protection and water pumps if flooding happens.

“I'll be surprised if we couldn't fit the entire population of El Reno in just our storm shelters alone,” McVay said.

The 2013 tornadoes were huge wake-up calls for the school administration and the taxpayers.

They wanted a safer plan than the duck and cover technique in hallways.

Residents paid for the storm shelters and wanted them to be available for public use, too.

The schools have told the community that the 2,500 students go in the shelters first.

They want residents to have an individual storm plan at home, but if that's not possible, the schools are a Plan B.

“If that storm siren is going off and there are people at the door, we are letting them in,” McVay explained.

The shelters haven't been officially used while the district awaits the fire marshal's approval, but McVay said anyone can still use them.

“Hopefully they never have to use it, but if it saves one life, we will have earned every penny of that,” he said.

The engineers really thought of everything. For anyone who is handicapped and can't make it down the stairs, this platform is EF-5 rated.

One of the five shelters is above ground because the location at the first and second grade learning center is in a flood plain.

That shelter is still under construction.

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