City officials close Shawnee public storm shelters

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SHAWNEE – Another metro community has closed their public storm shelters following Edmond, Midwest City and Norman’s lead.

Shawnee City Hall and Fire Station #3 will no longer open their doors when the sirens blare.

Shawnee’s city council made the decision last week, leaving a lot of people thinking they have nowhere to turn.

During the vote city officials pointed out that they were one of the only communities in the metro area that haven’t shut down their public shelters.

Many argue public shelters actually do more harm than good.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. They shouldn’t shut them down. People need help,” said Michael Deremer.

One of the ‘no’ voters, City Commissioner James Harrod, had one last plea before the decision was final.

“The city buildings, the fire department actually belong to the citizens so I hate to see them close down,’” said Harrod.

During the vote, the city’s Emergency Management Director Donald Lynch told the council they’ve learned there is not enough room for the fire station and city hall to be a safe haven.

They looked everywhere for other locations but nothing met FEMA standards.

He also brought up that the number of private shelters in the city has tripled in the last year.

He says another big problem is there are too many people waiting until the last-minute to decide to use a public shelter.

“Two places that you don’t want to be during a tornado are in a car and outside,” said Lynch.

Resident Jeff Dean says, “Nobody ever thinks of that until the times already hit and then it’s too late,” Jeff Dean, a resident said.

Many families in town call this a lose-lose decision, but say there’s still plenty of time to create a new plan for their family.

“Being prepared is the number one thing when you’re dealing with tornadoes. Be prepared and have a game plan. Don’t wait until the last-minute,” Scott Ledbetter, a resident said.

North Rock Creek Middle School will be available as a public shelter but only when school is not in session.

Click here for more information on the Shawnee’s Residential Storm Shelter Rebate Program.

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