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Public shelters are limited in counties across Oklahoma

No public shelters in counties across Oklahoma
Posted at 4:32 PM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 18:35:54-04

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — As Oklahomans prepare for severe weather, many are trying to figure out the best place for shelter.

That's why emergency management teams like Muskogee County are working to debunk old lists of places to go, to prevent people from getting stranded.

"A lot of these are private facilities or they're school districts, hospitals, things like that. They assume a lot of liability by having those storm shelters. As times have changed, those things have changed with them," director Jeff Smith said.

Smith said his department doesn't seek out or advertise shelters. They leave that up to the individual owners.

"People drive to that location and it's not available anymore, there's no one to open the doors... or you get a room that could possibly hold 200 people and then all of a sudden you have 2,000 that show up," he said.

In Rogers County there aren't any county shelters. Although there are two available through Oologah-Talala Public Schools, they're only free after hours and once a tornado warning is in effect.

"I get a lot of phone calls on the days of storms asking about public storm shelters and "Where should I go? Can I bring my pets?" All of those things should have been figured out in advance," emergency management director Scotty Stokes said.

These teams recommend taking shelter within the most interior part of your home. For more fragile structures, find a place to go before a warning goes into effect. Ultimately, they want less people on the road when weather hits.

"People get trapped on roadways. When you're in the car of course you get the emergency alerts, sometimes on your phone. But it doesn't truly give you a true picture of what's going around you at the time and if you get trapped in your car that's one of the worst places you can possibly be," Smith said.

There aren't any public shelters in Tulsa. In Washington County they give a similar recommendation, but there is a smaller shelter in Copan.

Over in Wagoner County there are two public shelters in Okay. One is at the high school off of North 49th St E, and the other is at the old school grounds off of Highway 16.

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