City seeks funds to build shelter

Wendy Lovett, coordinator of the Gentry House, said there were seven families on the waiting list, who had no place of their own to stay. || Chris Wilcox/The News

With tornado season in full swing, some citizens of Murray are expressing concern because the city does not have a designated tornado shelter.

At a city council meeting on April 12 Bill Call, Calloway County emergency management director, addressed this issue.

Call said the National Weather Service in Paducah, reported Calloway County has more tornadoes occur from the surrounding counties.

“We have a fair amount of tornadoes,” Call said. “They can be deadly.”

He said there are safe places for people to go to, but the fact remains there is not an established shelter to keep citizens safe.

People do have the option to go to Racer Arena when severe weather strikes, but it is only open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“The University is not willing to accept the liability and call Racer Arena a storm shelter,” Call said. “When you designate a building as a storm shelter you are saying this place is going to be safe.”

He said he would like to see a designated shelter built in the near future, but does not think there is enough money in the budget to support one.

“With the budget reality these days, we don’t see it happening,” Call said.

He said the situation could be helped if local churches and business would be willing to volunteer and open their doors during bad weather allowing people to stay there.

He said people who live in mobile homes are at the most risk because the structures do not provide the adequate safety. He said if a tornado were to happen, mobile home owners should seek a safer location immediately.

Call said the community needed to be aware of the nearest safe place to go in an emergency situation.

Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, said she was no expert on the dangers and precautions needed to provide safety for an entire community, but she said anytime the city of Murray and the University have the opportunity to share resources, they should.

“It doesn’t trouble me that the community uses our resource,” Higginson said. “We’re a small town, so we don’t have the large resources bigger cities have so it doesn’t trouble me if we share resources, in fact I think we should.”

Kim Oatman, director of Facilities Management, said the University is willing to help in an emergency situation, but does not want to give people a false sense of security.

“It is probably more so we are not pushing expectations for the general public,” Oatman said. “Where if you have a tornado shelter it has been designed for a certain specification.”

He said even though Racer Arena closes after midnight, in a severe weather situation the University would be open to the community.

“We certainly try to help the community as much as we can,” Oatman said. “We monitor campus 24 hours a day and we would send someone over there.”

If the budget allows for it, he would like to see an emergency tornado shelter built in the city of Murray, he said.

He said the city needed to make a shelter a priority.

Oatman said students should read the University’s emergency management guidelines regularly and if a tornado were to occur, consult with the employees.

“There are definitely published guidelines they need to follow depending on the type of event,” he said.