The Crossroads Head Start facility is just four blocks away from the 7-Eleven that was destroyed in the May 20 tornado, killing three people.
The children, teachers and staff took shelter in an interior room to wait out the storm.
Vicknair, who is the Education Coordinator and Moore Head Start Director Cari Dunkle monitored the weather and communicated with the outside while teachers entertained the children. Teachers told the kids, who range in age from infants to age four, they were “camping out.”
Dunkle and Vicknair strapped the doors shut for added protection and when the storm was close those doors were flopping, trying to open.
That’s a scary moment children at the Moore Head Start will not have to experience again — Crossroads has built a $98,000 tornado saferoom with FEMA-approved tornado safe doors that triple lock.
The close call on May 20 is not the end of the story, however. When another tornado hit on May 31, the center sustained $150,000 worth of damage.
“It took out a playground and our roof,” Winters said. “We were closed all summer.”
Fortunately, that storm hit late enough in the day, no one was at the facility. But Winters and her staff had had enough.
“We’re going to fund the money to do a tornado shelter in Moore,” Winters said was her committed thought.
Federal approval was required, meaning lots of hoops to jump through, but the U.S. Health and Human Services federal employees who represent the Head Start program for Region 6 were wonderful and helped Crossroads meet all the deadlines, Winters said.
Two years earlier, the agency had tried to build a shelter and had prepared plans so the project was shovel ready. But federal requirements had increased the proposed cost back then and the money simply wasn’t available.
The new shelter had space for children and staff, but it is not a public shelter and only children and Head Start teachers and staff will be able to take shelter there. Winters said the next hurdle is to establish policy. Once those tornado safe doors are triple locked, the cannot be opened without compromising the safety of the children. While parents can pick children up and take them home, Head Start staff are hoping children without a safe place to shelter will remain in their care until the danger has passed.