A Complete List of Public Storm Shelters In Lawton, Oklahoma
On a random Saturday night in May of 1996 my entire family went to the movies to see Twister on the big screen. The theater was packed because they shot Twister in and around my hometown in Northern Oklahoma. I remember this night in particular because the most coincidental and legendary thing happened while we watched that movie.
It was near just after the mid-point of the movie when the big tornado takes out the drive-in theater screen and everyone runs towards the auto garage to take cover.
During that intense moment of cinema magic, the movie shuts off, the lights came up, and the assistant manager ran into the theater and says "There is a storm coming in, the tornado sirens are going off, the theater is now closed, please leave in a calm and orderly fashion."
What are the odds of that happening?
Of course, now we look back on the history of that movie and the subsequent springtime release, this very thing happened all over Tornado Alley while that film was in theaters.
Because the family home was all the way across town, Dad drove us just up the road to our old elementary school. Like every school in the town, half of the building was underground so each one was a designated storm shelter and always opened for public use.
We sat there for an hour or so surrounded by total strangers as the lights came and went with the intensity of the storm until the all-clear was given and we went our separate ways.
Here's another really interesting short story...
The City of Lawton does not have a single public storm shelter.
Fascinating isn't it? When I first learned this shortly after moving here, I thought "How do they not have public shelters? Are there just too many people here?"
My hometown is about a quarter the size of Lawton, which I suppose is easier to manage with fewer people... but when I lived in OKC, they had plenty of public shelters too. My local shelter was a VA hospital a mile or two east of Bricktown. In fact, if you search for public shelters in your maps app in OKC, there are public shelters everywhere these days... so why doesn't Lawton have public storm shelters?
"Maybe it's a SWOK thing..."
Nope. Duncan, Elgin, Cache, Sterling, Indiahoma, Geronimo, etc... all have public storm shelters, it's just Lawton that seems to have dropped the ball.
After a little searching, I ran across a little article about this very thing from a few years ago. The quote that was given on the topic explaining the lack of public shelters was just as disappointing as it was ridiculous... Something on the lines of
The person in charge of opening public shelters might not be able to open the shelters due to transportation issues or they might be on vacation that day, so we don't designate anyone to open the shelters.
That's not the direct quote, but it is the gist of the message. As if that wasn't bad enough, that poor response to the question leaves us all with more questions rather than answers...
Does this mean Lawton actually has public shelters that aren't ever open? Does the city not employ at least one bureaucrat with the leadership skills to take on the responsibility of unlocking a door? Did we really spend millions on a new Public Safety Center and forget about all that needed public safety?
These are the questions every Lawtonian needs to be answered.