Man vows to build public storm shelters in wake of devastating Beauregard tornadoes

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BEAUREGARD, Ala – The recovery efforts are well underway in a small south Alabama community hit by multiple tornadoes earlier this month. But just being part of the clean-up effort isn’t enough for one Beauregard resident. He wants to do something to prevent future loss of life during a tornado.

It’s been more than three weeks since the tornadoes, but for people at ground zero, it feels like it was yesterday.

“I lived here for 20-something years and you couldn’t even tell what was what, because it was just so demolished,” said Chris Cox, who grew up in Beauregard.

222 homes were destroyed. Nearly 300 others were damaged by the storm. Worst of all, 23 lives were lost.

Cox says people in the community had no idea how strong the storm was going to be when they heard the tornado sirens.

“You know they were looking for people for a couple days after this came through, and I just feel like I needed to do something,” he said.

Cox owns 10 acres in Beauregard right where the tornado ripped through the community.

He says seeing the devastation has completely changed the way he thinks of these kinds of weather events.

“Once it happens, you have that ‘it can happen again’ mentality and you know, that’s what I’m trying to do. If it does happen again then everybody will be prepared,” he explained.

He wants to be prepared by building four public underground tornado shelters on his property that would each be able to hold 16 people. He wants to build the shelters as close to the road as possible so people can access them quickly.

“Even when we do everything right, we’ve taught you everything and you’ve done it right, if you didn’t get under, below the ground, and it’s one that’s large, there is a high possibility of injuries and or fatalities,” said Rita Smith, Lee County public information officer.

What she is referring to is a large tornado. She says being underground is one of the safest ways to get through one of those deadly storms.

“If you can afford it, its the best investment you’ll ever make for you and your family,” she said.

For Chris, money is going to be an issue. He says each shelter is going to cost $7,000.  He is fundraising with GoFundMe to carry out his $28,000 plan.

“It’ll give people peace of mind if it ever happens again,” he said.

Because even though it’s a costly endeavor, that peace of mind is priceless.

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