Tuttle public storm shelter stays open for residents without storm shelter

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TUTTLE, Okla. - In the past, residents have been able to head to a public storm shelter when severe weather comes to town.

Over the past few years, many Oklahoma communities have closed those shelters.

In Tuttle, officials said they have found a way to stay open while keeping the safety of their citizens in mind.

The public shelter is something Dusty Pierce hopes she’ll never have to use.

"It’s nice to have an option if I’m stuck here at work. It’s nice to know I have somewhere to go,” Pierce said.

Her flower shop is down the street from Tuttle’s City Hall, which also serves as the city’s public storm shelter.

“We recognize that there are people who don’t have storm shelter,” said Sean Douglas, Tuttle's emergency manager.

In a time when other cities have closed public shelters, these doors are open.

“We consider this to be a shelter of last resort. Certainly, we don’t want people coming from far distances away, racing a tornado, but we also recognize people need an option,” Douglas said.

Larger cities have gotten away from public shelters due to overcrowding and the risk of traveling to a public shelter.

Tuttle City Manager Tim Young said overcrowding isn’t a problem in the city of 6,500 people, and the drive isn’t far.

“It’s just intended for people to come 30 minutes before, ride out the storm and send them home,” Young said.

He said the shelter can hold 1,000 people standing and was paid for through FEMA grants.

It’s rated as a storm shelter through FEMA.

Oklahoma City and surrounding areas do not offer any public storm shelters.

The city's recommendation is to “shelter in place,” meaning stay inside your home, workplace or a nearby sturdy building.

“98 percent of tornadoes are survivable by sheltering in place in a well-constructed home. Obviously, mobile homes and vehicles are never safe during a tornado,” Douglas said.

That’s why, even with a storm shelter, Douglas wants his residents to have an emergency plan in place.

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