Friday Storms Had Many Scrambling For Shelter

One Option Could Be Building A Private Shelter

A band of severe storms had folks in our region scrambling to find shelter and protection Friday morning.

As severe weather season approaches, there are probably more days and nights of storms not too far off.

Washington County, Virginia Emergency Management Director Pokey Harris, says now is the time for you to plan for the worst. "The best thing folks can do is to have a preparedness plan for their family," she said. "What best suits them, their home, and where they live."

Harris told me that in cases like Friday morning, there is simply not enough time to prepare a shelter for the public. In that case she says staying inside your home, in the interior and on the lowest level, is best.

If you live in a mobile home, Harris advises getting to the nearest substantial building or a private storm shelter.

Since last April's tornadoes Marty Jessee, the Lead Engineer at Berry Home Centers in Abingdon, has seen an increase in requests for built-in safe rooms or storm shelters. "Most of the new designs that we're dealing with now we're having a lot of people that are wanting these safer areas," he said.

Steve Kegley, the Manager at Berry Home Centers, says safe rooms are not just for new homes. "You can also retro-fit this into your existing home. If you have a basement or crawl space it can be retro-fitted in there," he explained.

Brian Stevens is a victim of the April tornado. He remembers the violence of that night. "It was scary," he said. "There was a lot of wind, the hail was real bad. It was really scary. First time I'd ever encountered anything like that."

And to make sure it was the last time he was unprepared, he built his own shelter in his backyard. His shelter is 10' by 10' with 12" cinder block reinforced with concrete and rebar. During the storms early Friday morning Stevens and his wife were seriously considering using it for the first time. "About 4:30 this morning when my NOAA radio went off me and my wife, we discussed it," he said.

The same discussion that many in the area were having all morning Friday.

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