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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Okla. tornado prompts discussion for new high school

  • The EF5 tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., Monday had Lansing school officials thinking about how they will tackle the issue of severe weather shelters.
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  • The EF5 tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., Monday had Lansing school officials thinking about how they will tackle the issue of severe weather shelters.
    That's because the district has a unique opportunity to build in those kind of protections as it proceeds through the design and construction of a high school that will be new from the ground up.
    In the current design, the one approved Monday by the Lansing School Board following a presentation by members of the design team from Hollis and Miller Architects, the high-wind shelter is located in the corner of the bottom of the school's three levels.
    “This time of year, it always becomes a topic,” said Greg Porter, project architect for the new high school.
    The shelter's current design is incorporated into the normal function of the building ― comprised of the vocal and instrumental music rooms and including a restroom and an emergency generator, the structure would provide some sound absorption capabilities for those classes while providing protection for up to 1,500 people during severe weather outbreaks. Because of the nature of those classes, the rooms offer the most open space.
    The reason for putting the shelter on an outside corner of the building is twofold, according to project manager Larry Jordan ― for one, it prevents those inside the shelter from getting trapped, should the rest of the building collapse on top of it; and it allows access by nearby members of the community in the event of an evening storm.
    The shelter would be built to withstand 150 mile-per hour winds, or an EF3 tornado.
    “Most tornadic action is below EF3,” he said. “These are meant to completely withstand ― so no projectiles into this space, no problems inside of this space― this mile-per hour.”
    However, Porter said that doesn't mean the shelter could not hold up to higher wind speeds or more severe tornadoes.
    “It would probably do some damage to the structure, we'd have to grab our engineers and ask them what kind of damage that would be,” he said.
    But building the shelters to the standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to withstand an EF5 tornado like the one that struck Moore, Okla., and its surrounding areas could mean an additional estimated $200,000 to $300,000 for the project, Porter said.
    There are other ways to get a FEMA shelter, both Porter and Lansing Schools Superintendent Randy Bagby said. The agency itself offers periodic grants to allow upgrades in tornado protections.
    “We started (the grant application process) when we started the project,” Bagby said.
    Two previous applications have not been successful. But Porter said the plan is to keep trying.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Based on what I've from some people who got some recent funding... it sounds like it could be a pretty good possibility,” he said. “And we do have two years.”
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