Vance residents calling for more storm shelters after maxing out capacity


VANCE, Ala. (WIAT) — Sirens blared in the town of Vance just after 2 A.M. Sunday morning, and CBS 42 was there with wall to wall severe weather coverage.

Less than an hour earlier, only two people were inside the Vance Town Hall storm shelter with our crew. But once the area went under a tornado warning, two people quickly became about 200. 

“It was just scary I guess,” said Greg Boatner. He and his wife, April, live a half of a mile from that very shelter and made their way down this past weekend.

But when they got there, they didn’t even try to get in. 

“We were heading out and we said there’s too many people we’re just never gonna get in there,” said April Boatner.

We told Vance Mayor Keith Mahaffey the Boatner’s story. 

“I’m sorry [for the Boatner’s]. Please come again. You’ve got to keep coming and trying,” said Mahaffey.

Mahaffey tells CBS 42 that Vance, a town of 1,500, currently has two storm shelters. He adds that he would build more were it not for one thing: funding. 

“I would actually like to see two more built,” said Mahaffey. “There’s a couple areas that they could be built and they would be utilized but we don’t have the funds to do that.”

Mayor Mahaffey explained that each shelter costs about $250,000 to build.

After this past weekend, residents like the Boatner’s are hopeful that more will someday arrive. 

“I think we need [more shelters],” said Boatner. “We were literally out here for one minute and every car in the neighborhood was leaving. They were headed there. We just waited a little too late.”

Another issue raised by various residents is communication. With it being near impossible to get cell phone service inside the shelters, residents tell CBS 42 that it’s difficult to know the whereabouts of storms.

Mayor Mahaffey tells CBS 42 that the town has since addressed this issue and that going forward, each shelter will be equipped with radios.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.