More families choosing to have storm shelters built in Bartlesville following Moore tornado

BARTLESVILLE - A building boom is happening in Bartlesville and it's not from new home construction.

More and more families in Washington County are getting permits to have storm shelters built at their homes, and many of them say what motivated their decision to do so was last year's devastating tornado in Moore.

The next time the tornado sirens sound, all Corey Stukey and his family have to do to seek shelter is slide open a door built into the floor of their garage.

"It's insurance you hope you never have to use," Corey Stukey said about his new tornado shelter. "You'd be fine with never using it, but knowing it's there is so comforting."

He and his wife, Charlotte, chose to have an in-ground shelter installed a couple of weeks ago after seeing the devastation last year in Moore firsthand. 

"When we visited the Moore tornado, we went there to help as a church," he said. "When we looked at the devastation, we decided the best thing for us to do was to get a storm cellar." 

Charlotte Stukey said seeing homes stripped to their foundation influenced their decision to put in a cellar instead of a safe room.

"Really you need to be below ground," Charlotte said, "so that's why we had the in-ground storm shelter in case of an EF-5 (tornado). We hope to never have to use it, but if we do, we have it."

Safety-conscious homeowners, like the Stukeys, have given storm shelter builders a bump in business lately from Bartlesville.

For the entire year of 2013, the City of Bartlesville only issued building permits for 67 in-ground cellars. In 2014, the city has almost matched that amount already. With the year only halfway done, the city has given out 65 building permits for below-ground shelters -- 23 of those came in the month of May alone.

Because crews are building so many new shelters in town, the Washington County Emergency Management Office asks homeowners not to forget to register them.

"Should they become trapped in their shelter or injured in some way, they'll have that insurance that somebody will be looking for them," said Kary Cox, the county's emergency management director.

His office has already registered 379 storm shelters so far and new calls come in daily. 

"We ask folks to call in and give us their contact information, address of the storm shelter, who the homeowner is and a contact number for them," Cox said.

"Along with the contact information, give us a description of the shelter whether it's inside the house, in the garage, in the backyard, above ground (or) below ground," he said. "Then we will take that (information) and send one of our volunteer firefighters out to actually GPS the exact location of the shelter."

The Stukeys have already registered their in-ground shelter, which they say gives them even more peace of mind.

"Everybody in Oklahoma and in the states where tornadoes are real prevalent, they probably need to seriously think about storm shelters," Charlotte Stukey said, "because you just never know."

Anyone interested in registering the location of their storm shelter should contact their county's emergency management office to find out more information. 

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