Community storm shelters more prevalent since Joplin tornado

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WEBB CITY, Mo. — When that storm siren goes off, you’re likely looking for the closest place to take shelter safely. And now there are many more choices than just ten years ago.

There clearly have been some tornado shelters at schools and other public sites for years. But the 2011 Joplin tornado changed what many considered safe.

Josie Spikereit, WCHS Junior, said, “We know we should go into the dome and have designated spots we sit in.”

Webb City Junior Josie Spikereit doesn’t have to think twice about where to go in the high school for a tornado warning. It also applies after school hours.

“It’s nice to know that even if we’re not at school we can go into the storm shelter, that they open it up for our community. So I feel safe that we have a safe place that we can go to now.”

Webb City is one of many, many school districts to re-evaluate sheltering plans after the 2011 Joplin tornado.

Kevin Cooper, WC R-7 Asst. Superintendent, said, “In the past we would just put the kids in the hallway duck and cover, but we saw what happened in the hallway and we knew that wasn’t going to be the safest thing.”

In the R-7 District alone, they’ve added enough tornado shelters to cover the entire district. Some are also open to the public.

“Would be the four community plus three that are just for school, it costs us $22 million.”

Not a small price tag. But Webb City schools got some help, grant funding from FEMA that they may not have gotten without local disasters raising safety concerns in the Four States.

“And it wasn’t just Joplin you know Carl Junction’s had a couple of issues and things with storms as well, but that did put us kind of at the top of the pecking order as far as some federal grants.”

It’s a improvement plan that’s played out in many area schools in recent years.

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