Pawnee school installs Twister Dome that could fit entire town

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PAWNEE, Okla. - For the past two years now, schools systems all over the state have debated the issue of building safe rooms or storm shelters on school grounds.

KFOR's Galen Culver went to Pawnee, Oklahoma this week to visit a new storm shelter there that is designed to fit the whole town.

In Pawnee, kids at school don't head for the basement or an interior hallway anymore.  Instead, they head to the Twister Dome.

Superintendent Ned Williams has seen his share of drills, both real and practiced.

A twister took the roof off the high school gym and auditorium in 1996.  So, when the Joplin tornado hit in 2012 and the Moore tornadoes hit a year later, he knew the time was right to act.

Now, an 8,000 square foot dome sits in the middle of campus.

The City of Pawnee passed a bond issue to cover the 1.2 million dollar cost.

Last week, a Norman energy company cut a check to pay for the generator.

The entire school population of Pawnee, which is about 1,000 people, have been in the dome for drills.

It's big enough for the whole town to squeeze in during emergencies.

There were times over the years that Williams and faculty worried about a tornado's direct hit that existing walls might night hold.

This year, that secret fear is gone, and is replaced by a unique structure.

The school district has handed over sets of extra keys to the city and first responders Monday night.

The dome serves a second purpose as an indoor playground during school hours.

Superintendent Williams says he given more than 30 tours to school officials from around that state since the dome was completed earlier this year.