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Association estimates that as many as 200,000 safe rooms have been added in Texas and Oklahoma in the last year.
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Specialist Mark Foster looks at a storm shelter used by residents in Moore, Okla.
Spurred by the terrifying images of an EF-5 tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., as well as twisters that tore through Cleburne and Granbury last spring, many North Texas homeowners are beefing up their security with storm shelters.
No one keeps count of shelter installations but Sarah Smith, executive director of the Amarillo-based American Tornado Shelter Association, estimates as many as 200,000 safe rooms have been added in Texas and Oklahoma in the last year.
Three tornadoes touched down in North Texas on April 3 and they sparked more than 100 email inquiries to George Wingfield, who owns Storm Dorms in Dallas, a franchise for Oklahoma-based Ground Zero Storm Shelters. Greg Smith, who owns 3M Storm Shelters in Springtown, said he has a three-week backlog of installations for his above- and below-ground steel safe rooms that start at $3,800 and go up to $7,000 for an in-ground garage shelter. Carol Green decided she needed a shelter when she saw the devastation from the May 15 EF-4 Granbury tornado that killed six. At the nearby Rancho Brazos neighborhood, which was heavily damaged by the tornado, four homeowners have added storm shelters, said Steve Davidson of Habitat for Humanity of Hood County, which built many of the homes. The May 25 tornado in Moore, which killed 25, pushed Stephanie and Paul Klimas to equip their Burleson garage with a 10-person safe room.
The Klimases also got in on the FEMA rebate program run by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which pays up to 50 percent, or $3,000, toward the cost of a shelter. The $2.3 million rebate program funded around 450 shelters last year and will help pay for another 400 this year, she said.


They bought an eight-person above-ground safe room that could also shelter relatives who live nearby. Of the 1,809 tornado-damaged homes in Moore, more than 800 added storm shelters through a $3.75 million city rebate program, said Deidre Ebrey, director of economic development and marketing for the city of 58,000. Ebrey and her sister both got in-ground storm shelters installed in their garages as Christmas gifts from their parents. Wind scientists at Texas Tech’s National Wind Institute pioneered work in above-ground shelters. That work led to the development of standards for above-ground shelters that are endorsed by FEMA, said Kiesling, who has been involved in shelter research for 50 years.
The NSSA’s criteria for testing is the only accredited standard for safe rooms, he said, adding that only about 12 to 15 percent of storm shelter producers are members.
A homeowner should expect to pay in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $6,000 for a typical family-sized shelter, he said.
Prices are significantly lower in Oklahoma due to higher demand and competition, Smith said. Due to shifting soil in North Texas, most newer homes are equipped with post-tension cables in the slabs to stabilize them and installing in-ground shelters is not recommended, Wingfield said. Ads of the World is the world’s largest advertising archive, featuring creative work from across the globe. The shelter received minor damage to the door by the tornado on May 20, 2013, but was intact and all those inside survived.


The phones are ringing off the wall and the email is lighting up,” said Wingfield, who installed 22 shelters in March and expects to sell more than 300 this year. Ernst Kiesling, a research faculty member at Texas Tech and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, a nonprofit dedicated to storm shelter quality.
The reinforced bathrooms wouldn’t survive a direct hit by an EF-5 tornado but would be good protection in a lesser storm, Davidson said. The rooms are double-studded and lined with 14-gauge steel and covered with oriented strand board. It now has a waiting list of nearly 10,000, said Molly Thoerner, emergency preparedness director for the 16-county council. Some companies that were selling one or two a day, sold 100 a day after Moore,” Smith said. They will and have withstood direct hits from EF-5 tornadoes and none have ever been reported sheared off,” he said. We live on the north end of the lake; every time we get a storm it seems to move through here. Program participants must use safe room producers and installers that are members of either the National Storm Shelter Association or the American Tornado Shelter Association.



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