Shelters from the storm
Dec 04, 2013 | 930 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Not since the “Tri-State” tornado outbreak of March 18, 1925 had the nation seen so much death and destruction caused by the twisting winds that come down from the sky. On that day, at least 747 were killed as a result of the storms. The death toll of the April 27-28, 2011 tornado outbreak wasn’t as high, but still devastating and shocking, with 348 people killed. Of those deaths, 238 were in Alabama.

Few places are safe from the full force of a powerful tornado, and the devastation seen earlier this year in Oklahoma served as a reminder of the potential danger.

Actions seen in two area school systems this week demonstrate the determination to provide structures strong enough to provide protection when dangerous conditions threaten.

In Pell City, inspections were held for two multi-purpose buildings, large enough to hold about 800 people, at Williams Intermediate School. The buildings are expensive, and are being set up for use as classrooms in addition to their role as storm shelters, and they are to be open for community use if threatening weather occurs when school is not in session.

Pell City’s school board also included funding for a storm center for the high school campus in its 2014 budget.

In Talladega, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is installing storm shelters on three of its campuses. The setup of the first one began Monday at Alabama School for the Blind, large enough for 300 people. Others are coming soon to the Helen Keller School for children with multiple handicaps and the E.H. Gentry Technical Facility vocational training center for sensory-impaired adults.

FEMA grants helped make their construction possible.

Those are in addition to a multi-use storm shelter at the MGH Arena, used by a number of AIDB students for physical therapy, which was opened earlier this year. The arena’s private foundation was responsible for that project. The basement of the AIDB Chapel is available for use as a shelter for staff and students from Alabama School for the Deaf.

With the passage of time since the last outbreaks, the urgency for action tends to diminish. The threat seems more remote, but the potential danger remains. It takes committed leaders to steer funding toward storm shelters they hope they never need. When storm clouds approach, they’ll know they did the right thing.