MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Many people across the Tennessee Valley rely on community storm shelters for a safe haven during severe weather outbreaks. Numerous shelters opened across the Tennessee Valley on Saturday as strong storms made their way across Alabama.
"It's definitely better to be safe than sorry. It is unpredictable at times and it can happen at just a drop of a hat and by that point, it's too late," said Lt. Dustin Burke with the Meridianville Volunteer Fire Department.
Among the residents taking cover in Northern Madison County was Richard Phelps. Phelps moved to Meridianville in 1974. He said they've needed a community shelter and commends the county commission for getting this one. The shelter holds up to 187 people and opened in October.
"Yeah, it's fantastic. It's the second time we've been in it. Last time it was loaded," said Phelps.
25 people gathered with their loved ones to wait out the worst of the storms. Phelps said the time passes quickly in the comfort of knowing they're in a safe space.
"People bring blankets and pillows and the kids have games to play. It's a nice time, and we know we aren't going to be here forever," said Phelps.
The Meridianville shelter along with several other community shelters in Madison County are funded through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Members of the Meridianville Volunteer Fire Department operate the shelter.