Mother Calling for Changes to Storm Shelter Operations


CONWAY, Ark — After last week’s severe weather outbreak, a Central Arkansas mother is calling for changes to the way her town’s storm shelters operate.

When tornado sirens blared over the skies of Conway last Friday, Dawn Marie, who was safe in Vilonia, told her mom and two daughters to head to the storm shelter at Ruth Doyle Middle School.

“I was fearful for my two daughter’s that were here and my mother,” said Marie.

But when they got to the school, she said the shelter was closed and no one was around .

“My two daughters and my mother were supposed to be in a safe place, with the sirens going off here and it was almost like it was an abandonment,” said Marie.

She eventually told them to go back home, where they waited out the storm.

“It was a parent’s worse fear … to be that far away,” said Marie.

Marie said she got the idea to send her family to the school after seeing it would be one of three storm shelters on the City of Conway’s Facebook page

“I would have expected more from Conway Public Schools and the City of Conway,” said Marie.

Heather Kendrick with Conway Public Schools said one storm shelter’s door handle would not turn until a school staff member arrived, but would not say if it was at RDMS.

“I think that, that was a great backup plan, if you will,” said Kendrick.

She said the district is working to put up signs pointing people in the direction of storm shelters, which are mostly located behind a school.

“It’s good to know that these are a part of people’s plans,” said Kendrick.

Marie would like to see a better plan put out before severe weather strikes.

“I just think this is an epic fail,” said Marie.

She would like to sit down with the school district to discuss her concerns.

The school district said eight more storm shelters should be opened by the end of April, each one holding up to about 500 people.

Officials said the doors are usually unlock when tornado sirens go off and someone has to physically open them.

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