Gurley community’s long awaited storm shelter is now open

GURLEY, Ala. -- Many surrounding communities in the Madison County area have their own storm shelters, and today District Three added yet another one to their list.  Excited Gurley citizens gathered for the ribbon cutting of their very first storm shelter.

The community had first started the process of getting a shelter installed over two years ago. "We all know that November is a severe weather season. We wanted to have the shelter open as soon as possible, this was as soon as we could have it," explained Commissioner Craig Hill.

Hill is the Madison County Commissioner for District Three. He said he is excited his district was able to make the final payment on the shelter in September, with the total coming to $91,800. Just a little over a month later, and now it's open to the community.

"We hope that it's not used, but we wanted them to know that it's available and it's ready for use when the time is needed," said Commissioner Hill.

The storm shelter meets rigorous FEMA standards and can fit over 200 people sitting comfortably, and much more than that standing.

"Unlike a lot of other emergencies or disasters, you know tornadoes can happen very, very quickly. So it's important for them to know beforehand where they can go to seek refuge," said Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director, Jeff Birdwell.

As a resident and Deputy Chief for the Gurley Volunteer Fire Department, Larry Hollingsworth said this is huge for the community.

"It's right here by the senior center, it's a good location where we have parking. That was the biggest problem, finding parking for everyone that was going to come to it," he explained.

Deputy Chief Hollingsworth said residents are excited, and the wait was worth it for the state of the art shelter. "We're tornado prone, and it's been a long time coming, but we're proud to have it here. It's going to be an added bonus to this community, it's great."

The Gurley police and fire departments plan on opening the storm shelters whenever Gurley goes under a tornado warning.