Donations help purchase 6 storm shelters for Atoka county

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TUSHKA, OK-It's been almost two years since a deadly tornado ravaged the town of Tushka. April 14th, 2011, two people were killed, several injured and hundreds of homes were levelled when the twister tore through Atoka county. Since then, the community has come together to help Tushka recover raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now the rebuilding is done, volunteers are using the leftover money to make sure hundreds of residents can find shelter if the worst ever happens again.

The community raised more than $500,000 for recovery efforts in Tushka. Of that, $50,000 remained so volunteers are using it to install several shelters that will help protect up to 200 people and save lives when the next storm hits.

"It was a pretty scary deal, it took a lot of stuff here. It took a long time to rebuild."

Thomas Stafford lives along Boggy Depot road. He and his family were several miles from the nearest storm shelter when a tornado ripped through his neighborhood almost two years ago.

"We was down here when it started. We went up to my uncle's and he's got a storm shelter up there," he said.

But soon, Stafford and other residents along Boggy Depot road won't have to go far to get protection from the storm.

Wednesday, the first of six storm shelters purchased by the Atoka County Tornado Organization for Recovery-or A.C.T.O.R.-was dropped off at the Pleasant View Baptist Church.

"We have four large shelters that will be going in and that will be around Atoka, where the higher population is and then we have two smaller shelters and this is one of them here and they will be in outlying areas."

A.C.T.O.R.'s Victor Cook said they were able to buy the storm shelters using left over funds of the $500,000 donation made by the community for Tushka's recovery.

"This was the next step in the process and we felt like if we can provide shelters for the community, it would be a great way to wrap up our program," he said.

The smaller storm shelter measures 6 by 6 by 16 feet and it will be able to fit 16 people, while four bigger ones to be installed in Atoka city limits will be able to fit 24 people.

"It will be completely buried. The only thing that will be visible is the stairway, the handrail and the two vent shafts. It will be completely underground," said Standard Machine's Denson Cable.

Cook said they picked the shelter locations very carefully.

"We wanted to make sure that where we put the shelters, there will be individuals and organizations that will be able to take care of the shelters and watch over them and keep them clean,"he said."It was just tremendous, there's no way that we could've helped all the people that we did without all the volunteer work."

"Anything can happen, it won't be long until it's tornado season again," said Stafford.

Cook said installation will start next week and the next storm shelter will be dropped off east of Highway 69/75 at the New Zion Methodist Church. They are expecting to finish installing all six storm shelters by March.

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