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Residents reported problems with the tornado shelter , including doors they could not open.

With the recent tornado warnings that affected the Vinton and Benton County areas, there have been more residents using the storm shelter on Q Avenue.

And, as the Vinton City Council learned on Thursday, problems with the shelter.

Anna Sallee lives near the shelter on Q Avenue. The storm shelter serves families who live on Q Avenue, as well as those residing in the trailer homes on R Avenue.

But Sallee told the council and Mayor John Watson of problems she and others have encountered while trying to use the shelter during recent tornado warning.

One one occasion, she said, area residents were locked out, without a key that would open the door.

“As the storm passed, I stepped outside and saw many people standing outside the shelter,” Sallee said. “They were frantic, they we angry, they were scared. They didnt know what do to.”

The shelter had been set up with locked doors, and keys for those doors behind glass designed to be broken during weather emergencies.

But, said Mayor Watson, vandals have repeated broken the glass and stolen the keys. Also, some have broken the signs posted near the shelter doors on the east side of the building.

Another problem that Sallee mentioned is water leaking – like a “waterfall” she said – during heavy rains.

Also, she said the lights did not work.

Mayor Watson said he would visit the shelter and make sure the problem with accessibility was fixed. The doors are now unlocked; city officials will explore the leak issue in the near future.

The shelter -- named after the late City Coordinator Donald Martin -- opened in May of 2010.

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Comments (1)

I can understand doors being locked to keep out vandals, but this is NOT suitable for a storm shelter...a facility that is intended to provide protection to residents and may require immediate unplanned access. What, is the tornado supposed to wait in a corn field while someone from City Hall comes out with the key? Be realistic.

Providing the keys in a breakable box for emergencies may also seem reasonable, but once again it is not suitable for a storm shelter for the exact reasons mentioned in the article. Vandals could steal the key, making it impossible to unlock a door that shouldn't have been locked in the first place.

I live in one of the top floor apartments downtown. Aside from the few hours a day the stores here are open, I have no direct access to a basement or even the ground floor of any building within reasonable distance were a tornado or bad storm to arrive. So, given sufficient warning, I decide to go to the storm shelter out on the west edge of town. I was appalled to find it locked.

I wasn't the only one there either. There was a family, WITH CHILDREN, and upon finding the doors locked, they chose to ride out the storm in a minivan. Luckily the storm weakened before it got here, so it turned out to be relatively minor...THIS time.

Is it truly worth risking the lives of potentially hundreds of citizens just because of the minor inconvenience of a few occasional vandals?
By: Cristopher Sturtz on July 11th 1:12pm

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