MIDWEST CITY — Public storm shelters in Midwest City will be closed when a resolution takes effect Jan. 1.
Members of the city council voted Dec. 11 to close the shelters. Midwest City's public storm shelters are located in the lower floor of the Reed Conference Center, the basement of city hall and in the basement of Fire Station No. 5.
Officials cited concern for public safety as the reason for the closures. Emergency Management Director Mike Bower said traveling to a public storm shelter immediately before or during a severe weather event exposes people to the hazards they are attempting to avoid.
“Sheltering in place affords our citizens the quickest and best protection during a tornado event,” Bower said.
City spokeswoman Kay Hunt said there has been a high demand for the shelters in recent years.
“They were well-used and used beyond capacity,” Hunt said. “Our policy had been not to open the shelters until the sirens blew, but in the past people would begin showing up as soon as there was talk about severe weather on TV.”
Edmond Public Schools decided this year against allowing people to use its buildings as shelters. During a May 24 tornado, about 8,000 people were allowed into school buildings.
Tuttle has gone the other way. Its new city hall that opened this year has a storm shelter in the basement that can accommodate 985 people.
Midwest City officials said building a shelter that would accommodate a large portion of the city's population would not be cost-effective. They said better options are for people to build shelters in their homes and develop a family plan for weather emergencies.