Westover installs storm shelter

After nearly two years of work, Westover Council member Jeanne Champion Fisch finally saw what she’s been waiting for — the installation of the town’s new storm shelter.

“I think the citizens will feel ecstatic because they have a safe place to go,” she said. “Some places have basements, but they’re not as strong as this.”

The new shelter, installed on Thursday, has room for 150 people and can withstand an F5 tornado, which can have wind speeds of up to 261-318 mph.

Mayor Mark McLaughlin said such a shelter will help the community’s peace of mind.

“I don’t know what to expect, if three people will use it, or 30 or 150,” he said. “I think people just want to know it’s available,” he said.

The shelter will be made available to citizens during any tornado watch or warning, he said.

The Westover Fire Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and McLaughlin all have keys to ensure that someone will be available to open the shelter as soon as a tornado watch is declared.

McLaughlin said town officials are considering having a community work day to do landscaping and beautification around the town hall and the new shelter.

The total cost of the shelter is $150,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave a grant worth $120,000, while the county gave the town a grant of $24,000.