Harrisonville implements public shelter partnership ahead of twister season

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HARRISONVILLE,  Mo. — As storm season approaches in “Tornado Ally”, Harrisonville, Missouri is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

“We hope that those storms don’t ever come that, you know, just ravage through the city, but if it does happen, we’re confident that there will be lives that will be saved,” Pastor Ernie Cecil said.

Pastor Cecil runs Antioch Southern Baptist Church in Harrisonville. It’s one of the three churches partnering with the city to provide a safe place for people to stay during a storm.

“Restrooms are available down here, as well.”  Cecil said. “So, the facilities they might need are all self-contained here.”

In the church’s basement, there’s room to read and couches to sit on for about 75 people who may not have basements.

“Storms don’t pick and choose where they land,” Mayor Judy Bowman said.

Bowman said residents were concerned about the city not having public shelters.

“We don’t want to experience Joplin, but we know what happened in Joplin,” Bowman said. “If we had event similar that, I would imagine that these are probably going to be the buildings that are going to be remaining standing.”

With severe weather season right around the corner, they are holding an educational event for residents to design a storm plan.

“We want them to know exactly what they need to pick up, where to go, what roads to take to get there, what door to go into,” City Spokesperson Daniel Barnett said. “And when that’s the case, that’s where we see success, that’s where we see lives saved.”

The facilities will only be activated in specific situations. Bowman will let the public know via social media.

The city also plans to roll out a new text alert system that will warn folks to take shelter and notifying them if they have enough time to drive to a church.

Cecil knows first hand how shelters, like this, can save a life.

“I have a daughter who’s terrified of tornados,” Cecil said. “She was in one and wound up in the basement of a church.”

He hopes to provide that same safety for Harrisonville.

“This is what we want to do here,” Cecil said with tears in his eyes. “So that folks in that same situation find a safe place.”

The storm shelters are also open to people just passing through town or caught on the high way during a storm.

For those people actually living in Harrisonville, The “Severe Weather Saturday event is March 7.

Below is a list of Storm Shelters and locations:

  • First Baptist Church, 504 W. Wall St., Harrisonville, Mo.
  • Our Lady of. Lourdes, 2700 E. Mechanic St., Harrisonville, Mo.
  • Antioch Souther Baptist Church, 2601 E. Mechanic St., Harrisonville, Mo.

For more information, call Harrisonville Emergency Services at (816) 380-8925.

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