Tornado Proof Shelter for Holdrege Students


Smack dab in tornado alley dangerous storms can strike in Nebraska at practically anytime. Educators want to ensure their students will be safe at all times no matter when or where the next one might hit.

A new elementary school in Holdrege is being built and will have its very own storm shelter.

Safety is what parents want and demand when leaving their kids in the hands of teachers. Now those in Holdrege can breathe a sigh of relief as a new storm shelter that can withstand 250 mile per hour winds is being built.

Todd Hilyard, the superintendent for Holdrege Public Schools, looked over the latest plans for the new elementary school.

"All of this, both the exterior walls as well as the interior, are masonry block walls with rebar and concrete fill as well as a concrete roof on top of the storm shelter," he said. "I think every superintendent's heart is in the right place and unfortunately these are expensive areas to build."

Hilyard said the percentage of schools in Nebraska that actually have storm shelters built into them is very small.

"Not very many of them at this point have a designated storm shelter built in that is truly designed for the safety for the kids, staff and the building," he added.

The new school once completed will combine the current three elementary schools into one. And at the center of it all will be the safest area, an above ground shelter.

"Even last night with the high winds that we had, you find yourself thinking it's nice to have a place like this being designed and being constructed in case something much more severe than the weather we've had this summer would happen to happen in this area," explained Hilyard.

"I'm ecstatic," said Principal Amber Porter.

She is the principal for all of the elementary schools and can't wait for the next school year when the new building finally opens.

"We will be very blessed to have the space that we will have because most school districts just have like what we have right now. They don't have a specific shelter they just have the safer spaces in the building," she said.

This is the first school in Holdrege to have a built–in shelter.

"You hope to never have to use it but you want it to be there if you do," said Hilyard.

Reporter Lauren Scharf also looked into what other school districts in central Nebraska are doing to protect kids from dangerous weather.

Grand Island has no specific shelter like the one Holdrege is building, but are trying to pass a bond to include concrete decks in the next month.

Three of the newest schools in Kearney have reinforced areas in them. Those include Buffalo Hills, Kenwood and the new high school being built.

Hastings has three gyms in schools that have hardened areas: Watson, Hawthorne and Longfellow. Hastings also passed a bond in May to have more storm shelter areas in their elementary schools.