Ohio Opens First Tornado Shelter at Delaware State Park

Delaware State Park Tornado Shelter.

The Delaware State Park Tornado Shelter is an 83-foot diameter by 28-foot tall Monolithic Dome safe room which can shelter 856 people during severe weather.

@delcoema / Submitted Media

TV News Interview.

Ben Gelber — a reporter for NBC4 WCMH-TV Columbus — in front of the camera while Sean Miller waits to be interviewed.

@delcoema / Submitted Media

Ohio is probably not the first State people think of when discussing tornadoes. Oklahoma or Kansas are more likely to provoke visions of violent skies and Dorothy running for the storm cellar. Yet, 36 tornadoes already struck Ohio this year—double the total tornadoes in 2018. “We are not dealing with a theoretical hazard,” said Sean Miller at the open house of the new Delaware State Park Tornado Shelter. “This is a very realistic hazard … and campers are vulnerable.”

Sean Miller is the director of Delaware County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. In May, the agency opened a Monolithic Dome safe room at Delaware State Park—about 40 miles north of Columbus. Dean Narciso of The Columbus Dispatch reported on Miller’s comments to visitors gathered inside the dome for the open house.

Miller cites four tornadoes in the county in the last 10 years, including an EF-0 with 85 mph winds that strafed the grounds the day before the 2016 Ironman triathlon. No one was injured.

The article added:

The shelter, which has no windows, is the first in an Ohio state park, said Sima Merick, director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. And it’s something she’d like to see elsewhere.

“If it was up to me, we would have them in state and local parks and at (outdoor) athletic venues,” Merick said.

This is, of course, the point—to create a place of safety before disaster strikes. Park visitors and campers are especially vulnerable during a storm. Everything is open with no place to go—until now.

Emergency Power Generator.

The finished shelter includes what appears to be a protected generator in the cage alongside the dome.

@delcoema / Submitted Media

The Monolithic Dome safe room is 83-feet diameter by 28-feet tall—built by South Industries of Menan, Idaho. It encloses 5,410 square feet of floor space. Restrooms and drinking fountains are against one side. The rest is open space with a huge fan and sound baffles hanging from the shell to keep the room quiet and comfortable.

Up to 856 people can shelter inside during a storm.

The $1.1 million facility was paid for with grants from FEMA ($726,000), the State of Ohio ($241,000), and Delaware County ($100,000). The project included two warning sirens placed inside the park. When the sirens are triggered, a wireless signal unlocks the tornado resistant door on the safe room.

TV news report of the tornado shelter, one day before the dedication

NBC4 WCMH-TV Columbus

It hasn’t been bug-free. On June 15, the door failed to unlock when the sirens blared. Nobody was hurt during the storm, and by Monday they fixed the problem. “Leaders also put some backup plans in place as well—handing out keys to more people for access,” reports WBNS Channel 10. “There also is talk of installing a keypad so that a code could be given out for instant access in case there is another failure.”

They will get this sorted. The dome will serve the park for many years. But what about when there isn’t a storm? The plan is to use it as a meeting hall for naturalists, educators, and others.

Open Column-Free Interior.

A panoramic picture of the open, column-free interior of the Monolithic Dome safe room.

@delcoema / Submitted Media