The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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April 27, 2014

EMA: 4 safe rooms in construction phase

Today marks anniversary of 2011 Super Outbreak

OAK GROVE — A light gray, plain building looms near the Clements Volunteer Fire Department station as construction equipment and materials dot the small site.

The 300-capacity, rectangular structure at Cowford Road and Grover Drive is the future home of the Cowford community safe room, one of four underway by the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency.

Another built-from-scratch safe room is going up at 19667 Sandlin Road in Elkmont, while two pre-constructed units are nearing the final stages at the Ardmore on Park Avenue and Ark of Promise on Browns Ferry Road in Athens.

Eddie Gilbert, safety officer for Limestone EMA, said the building modules are set for both Ardmore and Ark of Promise. He said in case of an emergency, the in-progress rooms could be used but they still require finishing touches such as handicap accessibility, doors and utility connections.

Eight new shelters are on tap, joining the eight designated safe rooms or shelters already available within the county. The Limestone EMA is undertaking this expansive project through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tony Patrick, 55, has worked at Steelcase Inc. in Athens for 35 years, commuting to the metal furniture plant from his Cowford Road home, which is directly across from the safe room.

Patrick said he usually takes his family to his brother’s house, since he has his own shelter. But three years ago when the Super Outbreak ripped through the Southeast, he said they were at home when they saw a tornado less than 400 yards away.

“We saw the tornado up the street and we saw it got the shed,” said Patrick, who added the Tanner and East Limestone communities are hit by more tornadoes than the Clements area.

According to the Associated Press, 122 tornadoes on April 27, 2011, cycled through Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, killing 316 people in the third-deadliest outbreak in the U.S.

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