In 1993, the small Oklahoma city of Catoosa suffered a horrendous storm that left the community grieving. An F4 tornado caused serious damage to several structures, including the Catoosa School District’s high school. In 2016, superintendent Rick Kibbe officially opened the district’s first above-ground dome storm shelter and cafeteria on the grounds of Wells Middle School, on the same plot that saw the tornado come through. And with its opening, the school district provided a safe place for the community to shelter in the case of another deadly storm like the tornado in 1993.
Massive Building with Community Impact
The 136-foot diameter Wells Middle School Cafeteria boasts 17,350 square feet of multipurpose space. With a 30-foot tall concrete dome overhead, and a total height of 46 feet, the dome can house students for meals, activities, or assemblies. The $4.3 million investment was completely funded by Catoosa’s taxpayers through a bond issue, rallying an entire community behind the school’s project to provide safety for both students and citizens.
A Dining Hall for the Entire School
The daily use of the WMS storm shelter is for student dining, and it does it with incredible efficiency. The dining hall can hold more than 400 students at a time, allowing the whole of the middle school’s enrollment to eat at one time. But this flexible space also allows tables and chairs to be moved for assemblies or activities.
Full Service Kitchen and Food Storage
One of the big investments for the facility was the kitchen and food storage facilities. The commercial grade full-service kitchen and serving area provides the students with an excellent mealtime experience far beyond the expectations of the typical public school. And with a large dry food storage space, food prep areas, and walkin coolers and freezers, the food service staff can offer fresh meals on site for the school.
Strength Beyond Measure
While the daily uses of the cafeteria are a worthwhile investment on their own, the true purpose behind this structure is its ability to withstand storms like the powerful tornado that devastated the town almost 30 years ago. As a dome storm shelter, the Wells Middle School cafeteria offers a level of safety that surpasses almost any conventional storm shelter available today. The thick concrete walls that support the structure are strong enough to hold up against massive tornados, 100mph winds, and even earthquakes. In fact, concrete domes like this one have the distinct title of a FEMA-approved safe shelter, achieving the strict standards necessary to survive almost any major disaster, both natural and manmade.
Along with its ability to withstand intense storms, these dome storm shelters are also watertight due to their polyurethane spray foam insulation and PVC airform barriers. Even flooding is no threat for a facility like this one. In fact, while this is the first above-ground dome storm shelter for Catoosa Public Schools, there are many other concrete dome shelters throughout the state of Oklahoma. The reputation of these concrete domes makes them a popular choice for tornado-prone areas like Catoosa and the surrounding communities.
A Safe Solution for Schools
The $4.3 million spent to build the cafeteria and dome storm shelter may seem like a large investment, but the truth is that facilities like these are more economical, dollar for dollar, than almost any other solution. Multipurpose spaces—cafeterias, sports complexes, and student activity spaces all in one—are crucial for saving money in school districts, but a dome storm shelter offers safety that isn’t possible with conventional buildings. And for the cost, having a building that serves all of these purposes, plus protection from deadly storms, is an easy decision for school districts looking for both practicality and safety.
When your school is considering a multipurpose building, keep in mind concrete domes as alternatives to conventional buildings. With roughly the same investment as most multipurpose public and school buildings, dome storm shelters offer superior safety, strength, sustainability, and durability.
Looking to bid a project for your organization? Start by contacting our experts here. We’ll set up an appointment to talk through the process, and we can give you a tour of our on-site concrete dome home to see one of these amazing structures firsthand.