Internet Giant Donates Huge Tanks To Shelter Tiny Oklahoma Town

Wednesday, September 4th 2013, 6:17 pm
By: Craig Day

Thanks to a big donation from Google, a small town hit hard by a tornado this past spring will be better prepared for Oklahoma's violent weather.

When a tornado hit Spavinaw, in Mayes County, in April, more than 30 homes were damaged, the roof was peeled off the school building, and it reinforced the reality that any community can take a direct hit.

"By the time I got to the door, went to look out the window and it hit," Mayor Jim Winn.

Winn was only on the job two days when the storm swept through Spavinaw.

Since then, he's been working with other town leaders to make sure the community is better prepared if a tornado hits again.

A solution came with some giant tanks.

"It means a whole lot of comfort, and safety for the people here," Winn said.

4/18/2013 Related Story: Spavinaw Residents Survey Aftermath Of Early Morning Tornado

The 20,000-pound cooling tanks for Google servers were surplus equipment at the company's Pryor facility, so Google donated two of them to Spavinaw to be re-purposed into underground storm shelters.

"Does mean a lot to know that we've got corporations that are willing to help towns and bring us, bring smaller towns up to date on things," Winn said.

The tanks are made of quarter-inch-thick steel, already have vent holes, and are powder-coated, inside and out, which will prevent rust.

While it's never good to drive very far to get to a shelter, these are conveniently located right across from Spavinaw Schools.

"It's just an ideal place that we can think of," Winn said.

Each one has room for 75 people inside.

Only a few hundred people live in Spavinaw and the town's annual operating budget is only $130,000, so without the donation from Google, there's no way the community could have afforded storm shelters like those.

About the only thing needed are FEMA-certified doors and benches inside.

The city hopes to raise $10,000 to put in those doors and to build concrete, handicapped accessible ramps.

Anyone wanting to help Spavinaw finish the project can donate money through City Hall at 918-589-2278.

Town leaders hope to have the shelters ready by the spring storm season.