Shelters along Kansas Turnpike serve as option for drivers during severe storms, tornadoes

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Thousands of people each day pass through toll booths along the Kansas Turnpike. The average motorist would never know what lies below them unless there were an emergency.

“If you're getting off to pay your toll and it's not a self-pay or something, but you see no toll collectors around or they have all the booths X`d off, that's a sign that they`re taking cover,” Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Carl Koenig said.

Underground concrete spaces located right below or beside the toll booths serve as public storm shelters during tornado warnings and other severe weather threats.

“It serves two purposes: utilities, you know that's why it was built -- to storage them. They`re easy access to repair. And then of course, hey, this is a great tornado shelter,” Koenig said.

Some shelters hold about 100 people. Others hold only about 10 or 15. Troopers say it’s important to remember that the spaces are not meant to be used as community storm shelters.

“Because we don`t want them having to leave their home at a specific time and come down here and create maybe a traffic hazard for the public,” Koenig said.

Troopers say it`s a better alternative than pulling underneath an underpass or getting into a ditch if a storm catches you on the road.

“Our main thing is we want you to be safe. Your car is less important than you. It can get blown away. So if you`re on the road, come down to one of our shelters,” Koenig said.

If you travel the turnpike often, it's always a good idea to know where these shelters are located. Visit the Kansas Turnpike's website, and there you'll find a map of where to find each shelter along the turnpike.