School storm rooms increasing in Arkansas

Netra King with daughter, Jalyiah, 8

(KATV) Two schools in Oklahomawere leveled, children and faculty were trapped inside. Students had practiced tornado drills, but those specific schools did not have storm shelters. Here inArkansas there are grant funded safe rooms in 40 of our 75 counties, the bulkare near schools.

Arkansas'Tornado Shelter Initiative

May 1, 1997was one of the deadliest days in the state, 25 lives were lost. Four peopledied in the small community of College Station. In 2002, a storm shelterwas built at the elementary school with a federal grant.

Netra King says, "Oklahoma, I was like wow, why don't they have storm shelters there?"Watching the devastation unfold, Netra King prayed for the families in Oklahomaand thought about her sister, Barbara King who lost her life in the 1997tornado that hit College Station. Since that day, King has been terrified ofstorms.

"If thesessirens are going off, they're coming." Crystal Braswell with College StationElementary says the storm shelter was built in 2002. It can withstand 200 mileper hour winds.

When it is not usedfor shelter it is an all purpose room for students and can be rented out forevents.

They do fire andtornado drills every month and have it down to a science. Each class knows whatpath to take and all 260 students get inside in less than 3-minutes. Braswellpoints, "The way we do it, the student body is situated in the center. We leaveroom around the perimeter for the community to access."

King says someneighbors don't understand why she takes cover in the shelter every time thereis severe weather, but she says it is peace of mind. "I have no problem comingto the storm shelter, no problem at all. This community cannot do without thatstorm shelter and we are so grateful."

This is the firstschool Braswell has worked at that has a storm shelter. "It is very clearand present. I think it is very much needed and it does again gives us a sinceof security."