Some Cities Ready With Public Shelters During Tornado Outbreaks


Thursday, May 26th 2011, 7:54 pm
By: News 9


Darren Brown, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Because tornadoes are just a part of life in Oklahoma, many cities have a plan and public shelters ready when severe weather develops.

Midwest City Emergency Management Director Mike Bower says the city has learned early warning is the key.

"We've had our share of disasters over the years, and we learn from each one of them. We can sound all eight sirens at once."

When the sirens sound, Midwest City opens its three public storm shelters. The largest by far is the Reed Conference Center at Interstate 40 and Sooner Road.

The building wasn't even here when a monster tornado came through May 3, 1999. The shelter inside came from a FEMA grant.

Unlike a home shelter which may only be able to hold a few people, the one at the Reed Conference Center can hold up to 1,500 people.

"At other times it may be a little bit less, depending on if people need to use chairs or if there's tables in the room," said Reed Center General Manager Paul Van Raamsdonk. "But as you can see we, keep it pretty much empty for these reasons."

Although public storm shelters are rare in the metro area, there are a few. Bethany has one in the basement of the old Bethany Hospital building, and there are three each in Warr Acres, Norman, and Midwest City.