It weighs 25 tons, or 50,000 pounds, and won’t float or get blown away.
“If it does,” he said, “we’ve got serious problems.”
Green can’t install the shelters fast enough. Neither can other storm shelter dealers in the area who say demand has skyrocketed since the deadly round of tornadoes that devastated the region a little more than two weeks ago.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls, more than we can handle,” said Green, whose Tony Green Tornado Shelter Co. is based in Mooreville.
“We have a four-to-five-week waiting list. There’s always more interest after a tornado, and after the most recent one, we got 40 more orders,” he said.
At Lee’s Storm Shelter near Aberdeen, store manager Chris Koehn said orders and deliveries for the company’s precast concrete shelters have picked up as well.
“We’ve got a waiting list for all sizes,” he said.
The company makes 6-by-9-foot underground shelters, as well as 5-by-8, 6-by-9 and 6-by-12 above-ground shelters.
The company also makes concrete storm drainage boxes, manholes and other drainage products.
“We have five delivery trucks, but we have two crews strictly on the shelters, delivering four to six times a day,” Koehn said.
Clearly, the scenes of destroyed homes and businesses have spurred interest in shelters.
The human toll notwithstanding, tornadoes wreak economic havoc as well, causing more than $1 billion a year in losses in the U.S.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, hurricanes and earthquakes generally cause higher losses per event. But since the early 1950s, tornadoes and related weather events have caused an average of nearly 60 percent of all U.S. insured catastrophic losses.
And while homes and businesses are built to local building codes, FEMA says it’s a good idea to find out what those codes are.
In a publication about designing and installing safe rooms and shelters, FEMA says, “Building codes require that buildings be able to withstand a ‘design’ wind event. In most tornado-prone regions, the building code design wind event is a wind event with 90 mph winds. For hurricane-prone areas, design wind events in the code range from 90 to 150 mph.
“A tornado or extreme hurricane can cause winds much greater than those on which local code requirements are based. Having a home built to ‘code’ does not mean that your home can withstand wind from any event, no matter how extreme. ... Most homes, even new ones constructed according to current building codes, do not provide adequate protection for occupants seeking life-safety protection from tornadoes.”
So if homeowners and business owners opt not to build a safe room, an alternative is buying and installing a shelter.
John Blackford, owner of Southern Home Safety in Prairie, has installed residential shelters as well as community shelters. Made of concrete, they can go above ground, below ground or into hillsides.
“We’ve been quite busy since the storms went through,” he said. “I feel for them. I hate that so many died and so many got injured.”
All three companies say their shelters meet FEMA requirements of withstanding 250-mph winds – what an EF-5 tornado like the one that hit Smithville can produce.
The shelters built by the companies in this story are made of concrete and reinforced with steel, but shelters also can be made of reinforced fiberglass and high-density polyethylene.
Shelter doors or hatches are usually made from steel, fiberglass, or steel-plated plywood or aluminum. Stairs or ladders in underground shelters may be made of wood, aluminum, steel or fiberglass. Stainless steel and zinc are used for other hardware items like bolts and anchor chains.
The shelters have air vents and typically come with electrical outlets.
“You wouldn’t believe what some people will put in them,” Green said. “TVs, refrigerators, microwaves.”
Prices for the shelters vary, depending on size and features, and start around $3,500. Delivery and installation fees also vary.
But prices haven’t been much of a barrier to customers keeping an eye on the weather. The three companies have delivered their shelters across the region as well as neighboring states. Koehn said he’s delivered as far as North Carolina.
Said Blackford, “I believe in saving people ... I don’t sell with promises but by need.”
And Green sees the shelters as another layer of protection.
“This is nothing but insurance,” he said. “You never want to use it, but if you have to use it just once, it pays for itself.”