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In the aftermath of this spring’s deadly tornadoes, Middle Tennessee residents are buying storm shelters like never before.
“This year already has been the biggest year we’ve had,” said Bobby Bryant, who installs storm shelters for Morrison Tank and Vault. “I was setting two a day, seven days a week, for several weeks in a row. People don’t want one, or think they need one, until a big storm has hit or a big one is coming. That’s when they decide they want a storm shelter.”
Morrison Tank and Vault owner Wayne Copeland says his business has installed storm shelters as far away as South Carolina, Alabama, and all over Tennessee.
“Business has really picked up over the last two months,” said Copeland. “Buying a storm shelter is kind of like buying car insurance. You hope you don’t ever have to use it, but it’s nice to have if you need it.”
The storm shelter surge is not unique to Morrison Tank and Vault. In Murfreesboro, Larry Hooper at National Storm Shelters says he has already installed over 50 storm shelters this year and has a waiting list that stretches into next month.
“Most of the people I am speaking to are afraid, and they haven’t been afraid before,” Hooper said.
This year’s weather has given people reason for fear. So far this year, 505 people have suffered tornado-related deaths, according to the National Weather Service.
That includes at least 123 who died in Joplin, Mo., in May, and 238 who were killed in Alabama when at least 53 tornadoes pounded the state April 27.
There have been approximately 1,000 tornadoes in the United States so far this year, according to the National Weather Service’s preliminary estimate. Fifteen are confirmed EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes on the Enhanced Fujita scale. An EF-5 tornado has winds topping 200 mph.
It’s the deadliest tornado year in the United States since 1953 when the death toll was 519.
Morrison Tank and Vault offers two types of storm shelter. One is designed for flat ground that has been tested and meets FEMA guidelines, according to Copeland.
“It’s been tested at Texas Tech, which is the foremost authority in the United States when it comes to storm shelters,” said Copeland. “They use a tube to hurl objects at it, like a 2x4 or a 2x6, to see how it holds up.”
The National Storm Shelter Association was created in 2000 to ensure both above-ground and in-ground storm shelters can withstand wind and debris traveling as fast as 250 mph. The organization’s executive director is a professor at Texas Tech.
The flat-ground shelter at Morrison Tank and Vault is roughly 12 feet long by 5 feet wide. It’s 6.5 feet tall and comes with a bench that can seat approximately five people. The shelter comes with two valves – one that brings fresh air in, and the other that pushes warm air out.
Half of the shelter is underground. The structure contains concrete walls that are 6 inches thick. In addition to the flat-ground shelter, the company also offers a shelter for sloped ground that can be installed in a hillside.
In addition to selling the storm shelters, Morrison Tank and Vault employee Lisa Smith says she has gotten good use from a display model in front of the business.
“With the storms we’ve been having, I’ve gone in that one twice myself,” said Smith pointing to the display model. “If I’m here at work when a storm is about to hit, that’s where I’m going.”
Byrant says just about everyone who has a storm shelter installed asks about the possibility of a tree, or another large object, falling over and blocking the storm shelter door, thus keeping everyone trapped inside. He recommends keeping several gallons of water inside, along with canned goods and a can opener.
It costs $3,750 plus tax to have Morrison Tank and Vault install a storm shelter. However, that does not include digging the hole. Homeowners can have that done themselves, or Morrison Tank and Vault can hire a contractor to do it for you.
Morrison Tank and Vault can be reached at 635-3100.