WJTV News Channel 12 - SPECIAL REPORT: "Gimme Shelter"

SPECIAL REPORT: "Gimme Shelter"

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Madison County, MS -

Extreme weather is all too common in Mississippi. Just this year a major hail storm hit the metro and an F4 tornado devastated Hattiesburg.

Incredibly no one was killed in that February twister. Thanks to early warnings, many people had time to find a safe place.

But what if there isn't much time?

Tonight in a special report "gimme Shelter", News Channel 12's Ken South takes a look at the growing popularity of tornado safe rooms. When Bob Filgo decided to build a home for his family near Madison, he knew he wanted to include a safe room. As a child, Bob's father survived a devastating storm. Bob Filgo lost several family members in 1936 when a tornado hit Tupelo and that left a lasting impression in his mind about having weather safety. That weather safety tradition was passed onto Bob. He's always used a shelter during severe storms...though, they were usually outside.

Bob Filgo started from scratch that we would build a safe room inside the house to make it a little bit more easily accessible for the children.
Bob's home designer is Uriel Pineda. He says the number of people requesting safe rooms in new homes has sky-rocketed.

Ken: "When did you notice a change in people wanting a safe room?" Uriel: "Right after the tornado hit Fairfield. It destroyed a lot of homes there and we had a lot of houses designed in Fairfield and just about every client that, you know, rebuilt somewhere else we were adding safe rooms to."

A tornado safe room is really a room within a room. Its walls, ceiling and floor must be structurally separate from the rest of the house...so if the surrounding home is destroyed...the safe room will remain intact. It's a feature many people want, but very few in Mississippi actually have.

Kala Horecky has thought about it. It might make me feel a little safer, you know, when the bad weather comes.

And tornado safe rooms are safe. Research done at Texas Tech University in 2001 concluded that a typical safe room, no larger than 8 by 8 feet, and made of cinder blocks reinforced with rebar and concrete can withstand the strongest tornadoes..ones that produce 250 mile per hour winds and that can propel debris at over 100 miles an hour. Even safer... A room in your house that's also underground. This home being built in Ridgeland will have a safe room in the floor of the garage.

Marcella Young would like to have one, if its affordable.

The price for having a safe room built into a home? On average, it's about six to seven thousand dollars. To Bob Filgo, it's worth the added cost. Bob Filgo says to have a place that we can go to feel safe and be protected...you can't put a price on that.

Ken says small rooms in existing homes, like a closet or pantry, can also be converted into safe rooms. The cost is about the same but there is some demolition involved. If you're interested in building a safe room in your home, you can see plans for several types of rooms at our website, wjtv.com.

Meanwhile, Bob Filgo and his family will move into their new home this fall, before our severe weather season in November.

The F4 tornado that struck the nearby Fairfield subdivision happened on November 24th, 2001.

FEMA Safe Room

FEMA Safe Room Design

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