West Alabama man to build first-of-its-kind tornado shelter

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A West Alabama man is working to build a tornado shelter that is the first-of-its-kind in the world.

Building dome shaped homes that can withstand 250 mile per hour winds is nothing new for New Age Dome Construction Owner, John Johnson.

Johnson is taking his skills a step further and building the first FEMA 361 certified shelter that can hold about 500 people.

“This is actually our production factory where we’re going to build the kits, both tornado series and regular, and I figured since I was building it and I could meet the certification, I’d go ahead and build the world’s first 361-G FEMA tornado shelter,” said Johnson.

When it comes to constructing the two-in-one building on 30th Street, Johnson is going above and beyond.

“Well they have specification it’s called 361-G, which is the standard for wood frame construction, and it specifies 2×8 framing and it specifies a layer of 14 gauge metal underneath a layer of two quarters of plywood. We’re doing that but we’re adding stainless steel aircraft cable in loops over the structure to hold it down just in case we got lift,” he said.

During severe weather, Johnson said he will open the doors of his factory to the community.

“It’s never been about making a dollar for me, it’s about protecting lives and with all of these people in this area, in this industrial park, if there’s a tornado they have no place to go. I want my business to be here after the next one and if you live in Tuscaloosa, there will be another one, so I just wanted to have a place that would be here after it went through,” he said.

Johnson said he hopes to break ground in the next two weeks and have the factory and shelter complete within the next two months.

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Kyrie Wagner

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