The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

February 18, 2013

Area schools at forefront in providing storm shelters

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Webb City grandmother Kathy Wright favors a plan that would see her grandchildren’s school district combine federal grant money with local tax dollars to build safe rooms for students.

In all, Webb City school officials want to add 90,000 square feet of shelter space in six rooms. The largest, at the high school, would protect up to 3,000 people.

Most of the rooms would double as gymnasiums or libraries. The shelters would be open to the community during a storm.

“It’s a great idea. It’s protecting our kids,” Wright said. “The dual-purpose idea is great because they will be usable for the community. I feel safer that our kids won’t just be in the hallways.

“Before, we didn’t hear a lot of talk of any kind of shelters in the city. This discussion has brought this to the front.”

Throughout the region, the conversation is much the same: Parents, patrons, administrators and teachers are taking steps to add storm shelters capable of housing hundreds or even thousands of people at a time.

In Joplin, construction of new shelters is in evidence at the new Irving Elementary and East Middle School building sites. The Jasper district just finished a shelter for its students. And in Baxter Springs, Kan., the school district — at its first groundbreaking in 38 years — began a project that will add shelters at a number of its schools.

100,000 sheltered

Brian Orr, a structural engineer with Toth and Associates in Springfield, has worked with dozens of school districts in Southwest Missouri to help them apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to help with the costs.

Some of the interest predates the May 2011 Joplin tornado, but much of it followed. Parents and educators saw what that storm did to school buildings and realized that the age-old plan in many schools — sending children into hallways — was not only worthless if a large tornado hit, but it might even make matters worse.

“Those became basically wind tunnels,” Orr said, referring to hallways. “Joplin brought that to light. Joplin kind of opened up the eyes of a lot of people.”

Very few school districts are sitting out the chance to get FEMA money for shelters after seeing what happened in Joplin.

“Webb City is in design now,” Orr said. “Sarcoxie has two that are in design. Cassville has one under construction from a 2010 grant round. Avilla is funded, and they are in design.”

The list goes on.

Some of the districts, having witnessed earlier outbreaks of severe tornadoes in 2003 and 2008, were already moving on adding shelters before the Joplin storm.

Orr estimates that over a five-year period, beginning in 2010 and ending in 2015, enough shelter space will have been built to shield 100,000 students or community members in Southwest Missouri.

“It’s in the neighborhood of 750,000 square feet, and it’s $120 million in grants,” he said.

The Jasper School District storm shelter is the latest in the area. It has been in use since Christmas break, and there recently was an open house so residents could tour it. Like the shelters in a lot of districts, the building has a dual purpose. During the school day, it serves as a cafeteria and auxiliary gymnasium. The shelter connects the elementary and high school buildings. During a storm, it can house up to 1,600 people, protecting them in winds of up to 250 mph.

In most cases, FEMA grants cover the cost of the shelter. Anything else that school districts want to do — convert the buildings into gymnasiums, libraries or cafeterias, for example — is on the districts.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • r071114redoak2.jpg Red Oak II: Lowell Davis’ ‘dream, art, love’ and final resting place

    The collection of buildings would become a town (though he didn’t intend for it to, and it has never been officially recognized either by the U.S. Postal Service or the state of Missouri).

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • Money clouds farm fight

    For much of the summer, while the campaign surrounding “right to farm” has been focused on its impact on “small, family farmers,” the bulk of the money pouring into the fight has come from big agriculture interests.

    July 26, 2014

  • r072514schoolhouse3.jpg VIDEO: Full of history, one-room schools focus of preservation by local groups

    The old Kings Prairie school sits on a narrow Barry County farm road, surrounded by quiet fields and farmland.

    July 25, 2014 6 Photos 1 Slideshow

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • r072314girlgunclub3.jpg Women's league offers practice, social opportunities for gun owners

    The objective for some is to improve their skills for target or competitive shooting, the league's website says. Others, while wanting to improve their skills, also are interested in aspects of self-defense.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • r072414trainwreck2.jpg Train crash a century ago among area’s worst disasters

    Burk Johnson had been threshing wheat near Joplin when his newlywed son and daughter-in-law picked him up and took him to Joplin’s Union Depot to catch the evening train home to Neosho.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • 072614 Faith 2.jpg Rich Brown: McDonald County Children's choir combines music with a gospel ministry

    The McDonald County Children's Choir may entertain a lot of people, but the hope is that it will bless even more through its ministry, according to choir director Amber Nelson.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Appellate court upholds class-action status for Picher residents

    An appellate court upheld a 2013 ruling on Thursday that a class-action lawsuit brought by former residents of Picher, Oklahoma, against a Tulsa-based appraisal firm involved with the buyout of property in the city can proceed.

    July 25, 2014

  • 1717 Marketplace developer faces more federal charges

    The developer of 1717 Marketplace in Joplin has been indicted with more bankruptcy fraud charges, in addition to those leveled against him last year for a series of bank fraud and wire fraud schemes that totaled more than $3.3 million in losses.

    July 25, 2014