School storm rooms increasing in Arkansas - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

School storm rooms increasing in Arkansas

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College Station Safe Room College Station Safe Room
Inside the College Station Elementary Storm Shelter Inside the College Station Elementary Storm Shelter
Netra King with daughter, Jalyiah, 8 Netra King with daughter, Jalyiah, 8

(KATV) Two schools in Oklahoma were leveled, children and faculty were trapped inside. Students had practiced tornado drills, but those specific schools did not have storm shelters. Here in Arkansas there are grant funded safe rooms in 40 of our 75 counties, the bulk are near schools.

Arkansas' Tornado Shelter Initiative

May 1, 1997 was one of the deadliest days in the state, 25 lives were lost. Four people died in the small community of College Station. In 2002, a storm shelter was built at the elementary school with a federal grant.

Netra King says, "Oklahoma, I was like wow, why don't they have storm shelters there?" Watching the devastation unfold, Netra King prayed for the families in Oklahoma and thought about her sister, Barbara King who lost her life in the 1997 tornado that hit College Station. Since that day, King has been terrified of storms.

"If theses sirens are going off, they're coming." Crystal Braswell with College Station Elementary says the storm shelter was built in 2002. It can withstand 200 mile per hour winds.

When it is not used for shelter it is an all purpose room for students and can be rented out for events.

They do fire and tornado drills every month and have it down to a science. Each class knows what path to take and all 260 students get inside in less than 3-minutes. Braswell points, "The way we do it, the student body is situated in the center. We leave room around the perimeter for the community to access."

King says some neighbors don't understand why she takes cover in the shelter every time there is severe weather, but she says it is peace of mind. "I have no problem coming to the storm shelter, no problem at all. This community cannot do without that storm shelter and we are so grateful."

This is the first school Braswell has worked at that has a storm shelter. "It is very clear and present. I think it is very much needed and it does again gives us a since of security."