Schools add storm shelters, OK tornadoes serve as reminder to Alabamians


Oklahoma's devastating tornados brought back memories to the people who survived Alabama's 2011 storms and some local schools are focused on making sure children stay safe during a tornado. Both Concord and Center Point Elementary have something most schools don't. {}Their new construction features shelters that can withstand 250 mile per hour winds. It's something storm survivors say gives a sense of security after watching what's happening in Oklahoma. "You get solemn, quiet, just remembering what it was like," William Hill, Hill's Carpet, Inc. said.The pictures, the stories, the images of people emerging from the rubble in Oklahoma is a pain Central Alabamians remember well.{}"I just feel for the people in Oklahoma," Hill said. "It's terrible. I hope they have as good of neighbors and help as we had here. It was an immediate reaction - people helping you clean up."William Hill was one of those survivors. He escaped his Concord business when the April 27th storm traveled down Warrior River Road."I had a premonition," Hill said. "I was sitting here and knew I needed to get out of here. I went around the corner, drove right back and everything was gone."Jefferson County is thinking about school construction differently - building Concord's new school to withstand the strongest storms."It's designed to withstand winds of 250 mph," David Foster, Principal, Concord Elementary said. "The corridors on both hallways are all designed as part of the shelter."16 Jefferson County Schools have reinforced hallways. Two have shelters. But around 35 Jefferson County Schools have neither reinforced halls or shelters."We have schools that could not survive an F-2, F-3 tornado," Dr. Rafael McDaniel, New Construction Director said. "It could be the same situation with us where we practice tornado drills, you put students and teachers in a corridor, you put their backs against the wall, and head between the knees but that's not enough protection."State mandate requires that any school built after 2010 have a storm shelter. When it's complete, Concord's shelter will be able to accommodate the entire community. It's able to hold about 900 people.