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Stephens County Courthouse doubles as public shelter

The ground floor of the Stephens County Courthouse doubles as a public shelter. (Source KSWO) The ground floor of the Stephens County Courthouse doubles as a public shelter. (Source KSWO)

DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) -Law enforcement officials in Stephens County are preparing for Tuesday's possibility of severe weather across Southwest Oklahoma.

The Stephens County Sheriff's Office is reminding residents that the storm shelter at the courthouse will be opened Tuesday should the area see severe weather. Sheriff Wayne McKinney says the storm shelter is state-approved and was last used May 2015.

The storm shelter itself is just the bottom level of the courthouse, where some of the courthouse staff have offices. If you go, you're going to find yourself standing in a hallway, or possibly in one of those offices. The sheriff says the shelter is for people who live in a mobile home or don't feel like their homes are safe enough to ride out the storm. The shelter area is a very small space that could get crowed pretty quickly.

Sheriff McKinney says there is a sign on the doors to let residents know where to go.

"I have personnel within the courthouse, sheriff's deputies, that are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their instructions are to open those doors to allow the public free access into that back. No matter if it's daytime, office hours of the courthouse or if it's a two o'clock in the morning," Sheriff McKinney said.

Sheriff McKinney says people who come to the shelter need to leave their pets at home. He said about 1,000 people jammed into the courthouse May 2015, and that, combined with the sound of thunder, makes for an uncomfortable space for animals.

"Some people tried that last time. We had some dogs that were a little nervous and tried to bite some people. Just bring what you've got on, dressed properly obviously, and come in until the all clear is done and you can go back to you homes," Sheriff McKinney said.

If you do have to go to the courthouse for shelter, the less you bring with you, the safer you are. Sheriff McKinney asks that you leave large electronics, like laptops and gaming equipment, at home.

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