Alabama Storm Shelter Company Puts Product Under Huge Test

Northeast Alabama
Storm Shelter 1
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WOODVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- A Tennessee Valley storm shelter company put its reputation on the line Wednesday morning in Jackson County.

Valley Storm Shelters attempted to simulate the destruction of a tornado.

The company's president, Kateri Linahan, invited several local business officials to see if the shelter could withstand the assault.

"There are a lot of people who are concerned about having an above ground shelter and I think they need to take a look at this," Linahan said.

Richard Picone bought one of the storm shelters last month for his home in Langston, and the installation team told him about the demonstration.

"I'm hoping it doesn't move an inch," he said.

"I hope it holds to the foundation that it's bolted to, and from the information that I've gathered, the background of the company, I think it will do well."

First, a sedan controlled by a remote control crashed into the side at 30 miles per hour.

Then a firearms instructor used five different guns to shoot ammunition at the steel building, which can also serve as a safe room or panic room.

Next, race car driver Joe Zaccaro chained his jet dragster "Spirit of Alabama" to the shelter.

The goal was to simulate an EF5 tornado with 350 mile per hour winds.

The dragster's Pratt-Whitney JT-12 jet engine has about 13,000 horsepower, and shot fiery gusts at more than 600 miles per hour.

The structure withstood the wind and the flames.

"[It] was held by one dead belt on the door, and the door was still intact, it was closed, it was amazing," Picone said.

Next, a crane dropped one ton of bricks, then two tons of wood, and finally, the previously wrecked Pontiac, from 75 feet in the air.

The only visible damage inside the shelter were a few tiny dents from some of the bullets.

"It's had a rough day," Linahan said about the shelter, "but we're very confident in our product and are very pleased with the results."

She said they had never tried any of the tests before and it was a risk to do them publicly, but Linahan was prepared for it to be a learning process for her just as much as for the audience.

"If something more damaging had happened then we would know how to make our product even better so it was a win-win for us either way," she said.

The company donated a shelter for the sixth annual "Start with Trust" online auction, co-hosted by the North Alabama Better Business Bureau and WHNT News 19.

The auction starts September 1, but many of the items can be viewed ahead of time here.

Valley Storm Shelters does not do retail sales, but authorizes distribution and installation for Alabama and Tennessee through Supercell Shelters in Madison.

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