TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — A historic recreation center has been modified to serve as a temporary storm shelter during severe weather events, according to the Talladega City Manager Brian Muenger.
Muenger says the city has been working with the Talladega EMA to make changes at the Bemiston Storm Shelter.
Our cameras were rolling as members of the public got a tour of the facility.
On Tuesday the City of Talladega held an open house at a repurposed recreation center that will now serve as a severe weather storm shelter in Talladega.
Upstairs there is a basketball court and there are rooms for people in the Bemiston community to meet and socialize. Underneath the brick building is a storm shelter with walls supported by two to three feet of concrete, according to the Talladega City Manager.
That part of the John L. Moore Recreation Center which was constructed in the 1940’s just got a makeover courtesy of the city. City workers scrapped and painted the walls and ceiling and added new wiring, lights, and seating.
“We also brought in some first aid kits and water. We put up access points inside and outside. We’ve got two access points to the basement,” said Stacy Jones, Director of Parks and Recreation in Talladega.
About fifty people turned up for the open house. Many say they are grateful for the shelter.
“Safety should be a priority because it seems that we’re having a lot more tragic things that people need to aware of. I can’t believe anyone who would not want to be prepared,” said Willa Dean Vickers Marlaire.
One woman who has lived in Bemiston for more than four decades says she has heard the horror stories of people who took shelter in basements only to have their homes compressed on top of them by powerful tornadoes.
“That’s scary right there, you’d be trapped in your own house,” said Yvonne Grice.
“There are a lot of people here many of them that have lived here their entire life. And they find a lot of comfort in having the center here and having it in the immediate vicinity of their homes,” said Brian Muenger, City Manager, City of Talladega.
Muenger says the building once served as a fallout shelter and the building is solid as a rock.
“We’ve rated it to withstand winds in excess of 200 mph and of course since we are below grade it would greatly reduce the chance of any flying debris or anything of that nature,” said Muenger.
City leaders said the Bemiston Storm Shelter could hold up to 300 people during an emergency. Muenger says it will be open any time there is a tornado watch or warning.
The city manager says new technology that can triangulate the location of a tornado is used in conjunction with storm sirens throughout Talladega County. Sirens will now only sound when there’s an immediate threat, in that specific area.