Claremore Couple's Community Shelter Keeps Neighbors Safe

Thursday, March 31st 2016, 8:43 pm
By: News On 6

A storm shelter in one man's backyard in Claremore became a lifesaver Wednesday night. It ended up protecting everyone in his neighborhood.

People in the neighborhood near Interstate 44 and Highway 88 are spending the day cleaning up.

Some homes are missing shingles and fences are battered; for others, their homes are a total loss.

But they all say they're just happy everyone's safe.

No one was hurt, thanks to Gary and Pam Campbell's storm shelter.

Special Coverage: Tornado Outbreak: March 30, 2016

Their son-in-law, Kelly Smalygo said, "No kids were hurt. None of their grandkids were hurt."

When the Campbells built their home about nine years ago, they made sure a community shelter was part of the plan.

"Since no one else had, you know, a good shelter here, and he wanted one that would fit our neighborhood. Man, it was a blessing," neighbor Paul Driscoll said.

They put a big shipping crate in the ground - big enough to hold at least 30 people - and made sure all the neighbors knew they could come over and use it any time.

Driscoll said, "The whole neighborhood got in and, thank goodness he had it, cause it wasn't probably three minutes after we got in it and that's when it hit. It sounded like a bomb went off."

Two of the couple's children and their families also live in the neighborhood. They said they never realized the value of the shelter.

"Whenever he built that, everybody was making fun of him," Smalygo said.

But that wasn’t the case when the tornado hit.

"They could have died. They would have died if it wouldn't have been for the cellar to have a place to actually go," Smalygo said.

The Campbell's home was destroyed, but they said it's only a house; it’s a sentiment other storm victims are sharing.