Oklahoma Lawmakers Push Shelters For Mobile Home Parks

Tuesday, September 15th 2009, 10:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Several Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for more storm shelters they say would save lives at mobile home parks.  They are considering drafting a bill that would provide tax incentives for building shelters or possibly even require parks to have them.

The call for more shelters was prompted by the deadly February tornado in Lone Grove.  It killed eight people, four of whom lived in mobile homes.  There was nowhere to hide when a tornado tore through this trailer park in the tiny southern Oklahoma town of Lone Grove.  All but four of the 41 homes there were destroyed.  The park had no storm shelter.

That's not the case at Broken Arrow's Johanna Woods, which installed two shelters in 2005.

"I really and truly think these will save a lot of lives if people will use them," said resident Evelyn Graham.

Evelyn Graham, 89, has lived at Johanna Woods since 1985, and has used the shelter several times since it was built.  It's outfitted with fresh water, bathrooms, blankets, and even entertainment.

"We have a television that we can watch, channel 6," said Evelyn Graham.

Management says the shelters have actually become a pretty big selling point, and residents say having that piece of mind just makes all the difference.

"Well, I feel pretty good about it, because if a tornado comes, all I have to do is go about 10, 15 feet and get in it," said Ralph Tucker.

The shelters are not cheap though.  Management says it cost about $300,000 to build theirs. That cost is passed onto residents, but many say it was worth the extra fees.

"Yes I do, they're very good about that around here," said Ralph Tucker.

As for the push to build shelters like this state-wide, Evelyn says she's all for it.

"It's a shame that we have to make people do things that save their lives sometimes," said Evelyn Graham.

Johanna Parks is a large complex with about 240 homes.  Even with tax incentives, some say the cost of shelters may be too high for smaller parks.