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New Hope storm shelter nears completion

Published 9:47am Friday, September 13, 2013

By Charles Molineaux

NEW HOPE – The city of New Hope will soon offer a place of safety during times of severe weather. Work is nearly complete on a community storm shelter in the center of town, an emergency asset Mayor Butch Taylor said was eagerly anticipated.

“We don’t have anywhere here for our citizens to go when we have a tornado warning,” Taylor explained. “We have a number of mobile homes, and you know what happens to mobile homes when a tornado comes through.”

New Hope’s neighborhood safe room is projected for completion by Oct. 1 with a formal dedication scheduled for October 12. It will offer a refuge unique in Madison County.

“We’re the first municipality that has put in a shelter like this,” said Taylor.

The facility consists of twin metal cylinders now in place on Main Drive, installed by Safe-T-Shelters of Danville. The company’s promotional materials claim its structures have withstood EF-5 tornadoes.

“People ride by,” Taylor laughed. “Some of them are thinking ‘What in the world is it?’ When they find out, they’re so excited they’ve got someplace to go.”

Site preparation, grading and concrete work were done by city, county and volunteer workers. Taylor estimated the total cost of the project at $90,000, paid for by donations, the city’s general fund and cash reserves.

This community was shaken by the devastation wreaked by tornadoes in 2011, Taylor said.

“We’ve been very fortunate it’s never come this way,” he said. “But, you never know.”

Under the city’s plan, keys to the shelter will be issued to police, firefighters and families who live nearby so any of them can open it in time of crisis.

Each of the two cylinders is designed to comfortably seat 96 people but can accommodate up to 150 in a pinch for a total capacity of 300. If weather threatens, Taylor promised the shelter will be open to any in need, not just New Hope city residents.

“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” he insisted. “If there’s room, we’ll try to get them in. If there’s not, we’ll still try.”

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