Lubbockites showing increasing interest in storm shelters

Published: May. 26, 2011 at 2:52 AM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:14 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - As more tornadoes take lives and cause destruction across the country, Lubbockites are showing an increasing interest in storm shelters.

Mike Vaughn's company sells concrete shelters by the interstate. Of those shelters for sale, 6 people can safely fit in the smaller ones. As many as 35 people can fit in a community size shelter.

Prices range from nearly $6,000 for smaller shelters to around $18,000 for the community sized shelter. Vaughn says calls have doubled over the past few days as Lubbockites watch tornadoes strike across the country.

Researchers at Texas Tech helped develop the idea of seeking refuge above ground. 

Some are made of concrete, others of steel, and they can even be built inside your home.

Texas Tech researcher Larry Tanner has spent the past few weeks surveying tornado damage in Alabama and Mississippi. He's been asked to go to Joplin.

"When the rest of their homes and neighborhood was completely destroyed, here was an above ground shelter that saved folks lives," he recalled from his trip.

Tanner says most homes aren't built to withstand wind speeds produced by tornadoes. "Most homes designed to fit codes for 90 mile per hour wind speeds; this shelter [inside closet] is designed for 250 miles per hour."

By looking at the shelter, you would think it is a closet. He says the walls and ceilings are surrounded by concrete, reinforced with steel. He says the door to a shelter is very important.

"You need 3 points of locking and 3 hinges; 6 points of attachment," Tanner said.

Taking shelter above ground wasn't common until research by Texas Tech. Now you can find shelters inside a home, a backyard, or a garage.

"In this [closet] shelter you would be perfectly safe, it is designed to withstand an EF5 tornado," Tanner said.

Tanner says shelters should meet FEMA or National Storm Shelter Association standards. (CLICK_HERE).

Shelters can be tested by researchers at Tech to make sure they can withstand wind pressure and debris. Tanner says to keep a flashlight, radio, batteries, water, and food inside. He says to have hearing protection if you're in a steel shelter.

"You need hearing protection because when these things get hit they can be pretty loud," he said.

While a tornado shelter offers protection, Tanner says to also pay close attention to weather warnings. "Don't wait until storm is right on top of you because you may not make it to your shelter."

If you have building skills, Tanner says a shelter can be constructed with plywood and steel. We've attached a video of his instructions.

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