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Oklahoma homeowners looking at storm shelter costs

BY SHEILA STOGSDILL Published: June 3, 2011

Days after deadly tornadoes ripped across southwestern Missouri and central and northeast Oklahoma, killing more than 140 people and demolishing countless homes, calls to those who sell storm shelters have dramatically increased.

Wild weather patterns have sent Oklahomans into their storm shelters and those without are finding themselves waiting up to two months for shelters to be installed.

Throughout the state, whether it is a city or a rural community, the cost of an average storm shelter can range from $2,500 to $7,500 and more, depending on amenities and materials used in construction.

After viewing last week's storm damage, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak estimated insured losses would be “hundreds of millions of dollars” and called for legislation to help Oklahomans pay for storm shelters with tax breaks and tax incentives.

“Oklahomans need to have shelters,” Doak said. “I've seen some and the folks that survived were in shelters. Their home may be gone, but their lives were saved.”

After the 1999 and 2003 tornadoes the state of Oklahoma used federal funds to provide rebates to homeowners who installed safe rooms or underground storm shelters.

Currently the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on implementing a statewide program to help with storm shelter and saferoom funding, said Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Emergency Management director.

The plan could be possibly part of a larger program which receives federal dollars if Oklahoma is declared a disaster area by President Barack Obama, he said.

“Oklahoma was the first state to start a program for saferoom rebates after the 1999 tornado outbreak,” Ashwood said.

The program assisted with saferooms or underground shelters for 10,000 residences and 85 schools, he said.

After the 2003 tornado outbreak, the rules changed at the federal level, Ashwood said. Now the programs are more community and tribal based, he said.

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The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management urges homeowners with storm shelters to register them with their respective cities, typically the fire departments; so if they’re trapped in a shelter following a storm, officials will know where they are. The following is a partial list of area contact numbers.

Bethany -- 789-2218.

Del City -- 671-2891.

Edmond -- or 359-4564.

Midwest City -- or 739-1340.

Moore -- or 793-5051.

Nichols Hills -- (scroll to Quick Links!) or 842-5881.

Oklahoma City -- or 297-2535.

Oklahoma County (including residents who live outside city limits) -- or 869-2501.


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