Newbern builds safe room against tornadoes, earthquakes
NEWBERN, Tenn. — The foundations are laid for a new storm shelter to protect Newbern residents during natural disasters. “This town has been devastated twice,” Mayor Olen Parker said. “By a tornado in 2006 — we lost 16 lives here. It was a hard impact on our community.” The new safe room will be a protective shelter against tornadoes and earthquakes. It will be exclusively for students during school hours and open to the entire community the rest of the time. Parker said a tunnel makes this safe room at Newbern Elementary School different from any other in the state. “A tunnel, which is a tornado-proof hallway, joins the safe room and the school together,” Parker said. Evette Ownby lives across the street and said she is glad the tunnel was included for students’ safety. “It’s a good idea,” Ownby said. “It keeps them safe the whole time.” According to the mayor, once the safe room is complete it will be about 7,500 square feet and be able to hold more than a thousand people. “Plus, they have the safety feature of imminent danger, so when the storm comes we can quickly move all 780 students in a matter of a few minutes,” Parker said. It will cost $1.3 million, which the mayor said will be covered mostly through government grants. “At $1.3 million, if you can save a life, it’s worth 10 times that,” Parker said.