James Clemens High certified as storm shelter - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

James Clemens High certified as storm shelter

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The high school's auditorium and gymnasium are built to withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph. The high school's auditorium and gymnasium are built to withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph.
MADISON, AL (WAFF) -

James Clemens High School has been declared a public tornado shelter area, open during times of severe weather.

Clemens is the only school in the district with certified safe rooms; all other schools in the system were built before state-mandated construction rules went into effect. Residents within easy reach of the school said they are happy to have a place to go in times of severe weather.

When Madison County resident Darwin Overholt used to hear tornado sirens go off, he and his wife would take cover below their staircase. But now he can take shelter at James Clemens, since he doesn't have his own safe room.

"My guess in this community, I would bet 99% of us don't," Overholt said.

Overholt said the shelter is about three minutes down the road from him. The high school's auditorium and gymnasium are built to withstand wind speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. It can hold approximately 2,000 people.

School officials said the structure is reinforced with rebar and double-poured concrete, and is the only one in the school system built to that level of safety.

Madison County Schools, the county emergency management agency, and the City of Madison combined their resources to help make the community shelter come to fruition. It's an effort that hasn't gone without recognition and thanks from residents like Overholt.

"I just think it's a wonderful thing. I think it's something that this community needed," he said.

The only time the shelter will not be open to the public is when school is in session. The community will be notified when the shelter is activated through channels like text messages from area emergency officials.

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