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Tornado shelters could soon be required by law

PIEDMONT, Okla. — May 24, 2011 will never be erased from Deborah Hamil’s mind. Her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren tried to ride out the violent EF-4 tornado in a bathtub. The home was wiped off its foundation and the two youngest boys were swept away and killed.

Hamil said, “Had it had a shelter in the garage, right outside the door in the garage, of course hindsight is 20/20, I would still have my grandchildren today.”

The Hamil family is now pushing state lawmakers to support the Ryan and Cole Hamil Act. 

It mandates that all new home construction include a storm shelter or safe room.

Hamil said, “Tornadoes are coming at 1:30 a.m. We can’t have families in cars looking for shelter. Their home should be the safest haven they have.”

Rep. Richard Morrissette introduced the legislation with immediate backlash.

Rep. Morrissette told us, “We mandate safety in cars. Why not vehicles too? That was my argument. But if you make that argument then you’re a big bully even if it saves countless lives.”

House bill 2720 is still up for consideration but it has admittedly been watered down.

The new proposal would require that a seller disclose the existence of a storm shelter or structural connectors or ties used to make the home more resistant to high winds. 

It’s not what Deborah Hamil would have liked but she’s encouraged that lawmakers are at least talking.

It’s her way of keeping Ryan and Cole’s memory alive.  

Deborah said, “I know they’re in heaven having a ball. But I don’t want a family to go through what we went through.”