Tornado shelter open for hundreds in Crockett County

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CROCKETT COUNTY, Tenn. — Several cities across West Tennessee have built community storm shelters, but in Crockett County, leaders said theirs is largely underused. “When I hear the tornado sirens, I come up and I open up,” Ferris Arnold, Alamo city superintendent, said. “The public is welcome to come in and stay until it’s clear again.” County officials said the concrete, steel and brick building can hold more than 700 people standing up. The building is designed to withstand wind gusts up to 250 miles per hour. Crockett County Emergency Management Director Joe Jones said the shelter has been open only twice since construction was completed in February 2014. He thinks it is partially due to residents not realizing it is open and the fact the shelter is only unlocked when tornado warnings are issued. “We get lots of watches — severe storm watches, tornado watches,” Jones said. “They might last 7 to 8 hours, and they never develop, so it’s really better to have the warning and open.” The building cost more than $1 million to build. Jones said 85 percent of the funds for construction came from a grant through the Department of Homeland Security. The storm shelter sits directly behind the Alamo City Park. City staff said they did not need to purchase the land because tennis courts once sat there. Some residents said they think it is a wise investment for the safety of the community but are not sure they would seek shelter inside. “There’s no guarantee that you’re even going to make it to it,” Auby Leggett said. “So it’s like do I risk even going to the shelter or do I just take my chances here.” The shelter is open for all Crockett County residents. If you are unsure if there is a community storm shelter in your area, contact your county’s emergency management agency office.

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