Severe storms have many seeking shelters

Severe weather creates deluge of interest in safe havens

kward1@herald-leader.comJuly 16, 2012 

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    For more information about the companies in this article, contact:

    ■ Pyles Concrete, (606) 383-3562, Pylesconcrete.com

    ■ Doyle Mobile Homes, (606) 845-0761, Doylemh.com

    ■ Kentucky Storm Shelters, Kentuckystormshelters.com, (270) 469-6196

The rash of tornadoes that devastated West Liberty and other parts of the state in the spring got some people thinking about making sure they have a safe place to go in such an emergency.

Several companies that sell storm shelters said they've had all the business they can handle over the past several months.

"It opened a lot of eyes," said David Moore, vice president of the storm shelter division at Pyles Concrete in Columbia.

The company has been manufacturing pre-cast concrete storm shelters for 20 years. When the tornadoes came through, requests for them went up.

"Thank goodness we had 100 in stock where we built them through the winter," Moore said. "Business has been good."

Other dealers said the same.

"I could've sold 50," said David Doyle, a Flemingsburg mobile home dealer who also sells storm shelters as a distributor for an Illinois-based company. "People are wanting these things like crazy."

Doyle said he got more than 40 calls from people interested in the shelters on the first day after the tornadoes swept through.

"It was like that for a week and a half," he said.

Doyle said he has sold 18 of the shelters since the storms, including several in West Liberty. Last year, he said, he sold about a dozen.

He said he has stopped marketing the shelters because of delays in getting them from the manufacturer; demand has been greater than the supply.

Paul Gabehart, who owns Kentucky Storm Shelters LLC in Campbellsville and is a distributor for the same company as Doyle, also has seen a big increase in sales and has struggled with the supply problem.

"The shelters that I'm putting in now were ordered in April," Gabehart said. "I could sell a lot more."

The shelters Gabehart and Doyle sell are made of fiberglass, with molded seats inside. They are buried underground.

"When we haul them down the road, people will ask, 'Is that a new septic tank?' " Doyle said.

Larry Snapp, who lives in a double-wide manufactured home in Flemingsburg, bought a fiberglass shelter that will seat 12 people.

"The big storm that hit West Liberty ... was a big factor in it," Snapp said of his spring purchase. "You just never know."

He said the shelter is buried in his yard, with the door sticking out about five inches. He keeps a battery-powered radio and battery-operated lights inside.

Rather than a buried shelter, some customers opt for an above-ground safe room.

Bev and John Passerello chose one that came in the form of a ventilated "steel box" that sits in the Lexington couple's garage.

The Passerellos are natives of California, where they worked in the Governor's Office of Emergency Services before retiring.

Bev Passerello said they bought the shelter about six to eight months ago, before the wave of spring storms.

"Our background is emergency preparedness," Passerello said. "We have a very, very healthy respect for what a natural disaster can cause."

She said the shelter would comfortably seat her and her husband, but if needed, about six people could cram inside.

All the dealers said they serve a wide range of customers.

Some, Doyle said, own manufactured homes; others own traditional dwellings. Gabehart is installing three underground shelters and two above-ground safe rooms for a local horse farm that wants to provide protection to its employees.

Underground shelters come in a range of sizes, seating four to 20 people, and prices can range from about $3,600 to $9,000.

Danville pastor Morris Trayner recently had a concrete storm shelter installed in his yard because his home doesn't have a basement.

The shelter, made by Pyles Concrete, has 5-inch-thick walls and could seat 12 adults.

He said he has offered shelter to nearby neighbors in the event of a storm.

In the winter, Trayner said, his wife plans to use the shelter as a cellar for storing potatoes they've grown in their garden.

"I wanted a safe place for my wife and I, and we've got two cats," he said. "I wanted something like this that I could go into and have peace of mind."

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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