Storm shelter company phones ringing off hook

Comanche_Storm shelter companies are not normally busy in February, but after this week's killer tornado in Lone Grove, local storm shelter companies say their phones are ringing of the hook.  Folks want to be better prepared for deadly weather, especially since we have not even hit the beginning of tornado season in Texoma.  Dennis Vails has been building storm shelter since the 1960s, and says he's a solid believer in concrete safe rooms.  He has installed shelters of all kinds over the years throughout north Texas and southern Oklahoma, and says it's a life saving business.

Tuesday's twister in Lone Grove hit too close to home for some people in Comanche.  Sherry McDaniel's mother-in-law lives on the same street where several people were killed, and she escaped before mother nature plowed through.  "She has a cellar, but see she wasn't able to go in it - she needs a safe room," she said.  It's what she has, and she's relying on Vails to build one for her mother-in-law.  "Tornado season - it scares you, and it keeps coming earlier all the time...and a lot of them," she said.  "Just wanted something without going down in the ground - it's easier that way.  It's easier for my mother too."

Vails says the same concept is used now as it was back then.  "1969, 1970...first time I ever set the forms and poured the concrete myself," he said.  "It's still the same concept.  We pour a big thick floor, and then we set the forms, and pour the walls and roof in all of my storm shelters."

McDaniel's safe room is guarded by eight inches of concrete - double what FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends.  "It's built just like a bank vault."  The shelter Vails built at the Comanche Housing Authority for its tenants is even more secure - it has concrete walls that are one-foot thick.

Vails says he typically gets calls to build safe rooms in the spring and summer, but with deadly twisters in February, folks are not waiting.  "I have a unique business," he said.  "It's kind of like selling Christmas trees - it's extremely seasonal."  He says indoor safe rooms will cost about $6,000, but it's a price a lot of people will not hesitate to pay if it could save their lives or the lives of friends and loved ones.

If you live in Comanche County and have a storm shelter or build one, remember to register it with Comanche County officials.  It can help authorities find you if you become trapped inside because of severe weather.  To register your shelter call 211 or 580-355-7575 from 8AM-5PM, Monday-Friday.  It only takes a few minutes and could make the difference between life and death.