Because storm season is now upon us, Mayor Sheryl Ellis declared the month of April as Severe Weather Preparedness Month in the City of Ardmore.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, the state experiences an average of 54 tornadoes per year with approximately 75 percent occurring between the months of April and June. 

Director of Emergency Management Amber Wilson said citizens should either shelter in place or at a nearby location and stressed the importance of already having a plan put together before the storm strikes.

“We have one designated shelter that I open up in the event of severe weather,” Wilson said. “It’s at the Plainview Gymnasium located in the southeast corner.” She strongly encouraged those living in mobile homes and apartment buildings to come to the shelter, but she noted that space is limited and pets are not allowed.

Wilson said this is the only designated public storm shelter in town. She added that the city does not encourage going to places like the HFV Wilson Community Center or other locations in town that have a basement because they are not designated shelters.

“At HFV we’re not going to turn somebody away during a storm, but if it’s not during regular business hours there is not going to be anyone there to open the doors,” Wilson said. “You also do not want to be out driving because during a tornado one of the worst places you can be is in your car.”

She said those sheltering in place that do not have a storm shelter should go to the innermost location within their home such as a closet or bathroom. They should also bring items like pillows, blankets, or even a mattress to cover up with.

“You want to protect yourself from flying debris because more people die from the debris than they do from the tornado itself,” Wilson said. “If you’re worried about staying in your home, you might visit with some of your neighbors. A lot of people around the area have storm shelters and most people are willing to let their neighbors come in.”

Wilson also stressed the importance of making sure children and teens know where to go during a tornado — especially those who may be alone for a few hours after school because most tornadoes occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Anyone who has a storm shelter on their property is encouraged to register it with the city. This information will then be placed on a map to help search and rescue efforts in the event of the worst.

“If a certain area of town is hit, we’ll give that map to first responders, and they’ll know where to look for shelters,” Wilson said.

To register your storm shelter, you can either call the Department of Emergency Management  at (580) 223-4453 or online at www.ardmorecity.org/160/Emergency-Management.