Why Madison County doesn't have storm shelters

When the tornado hit Harvest, Sharry Gilliam, her son, a woman who lives next door and her two kids went into Gilliam's interior. It was the only place they could take cover.

The only shelter in Harvest is miles away on Old Railroad Bed Road. It's a community shelter, not operated by Madison County. The Gilliams survived Wednesday's tornadoes, but their neighbors did not.

"Some people in a trailer were killed because they didn't really have a place to go," Gilliam said.

Madison County Emergency Management Director Rusty Russell said one reason the county does not operate storm shelters is because of a lesson learned after the deadly tornado outbreak in 1974.

"A study was done and found more people were hurt because they left a place they were safe and tried to go somewhere they thought they would be safe. They waited to the last minute and they were caught in the storm," Russell said.

Russell said surrounding counties may need shelters more because they have more rural areas and smaller warning systems.

"We have the highest percentage of siren coverage of any county in Alabama," said Russell of Madison County.

Russell cited funding issues to provide equal access for all residents and liability concerns as reason Madison County does not own shelters, adding there are no plans to install any.

For a map of storm shelters, click here.

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