Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Storm-wary Kansans dig firm’s tornado shelters

April 19, 2000

Phil Weide has a job that's about as well-suited for Kansas as anybody's job can be: He builds tornado shelters.

For about $2,500, anybody including those who live in homes without basements, or even in mobile homes can have a safe underground shelter to take cover in during tornado warnings.

Weide, whose concrete business is in Kansas City, Kan., and whose parents, Phil and Pat Weide, and brother, Brian Weide, operate a concrete business in Iola, have all entered the underground shelter business this year. They started the company D of K Vault Inc. in 1984 in Iola, and five years ago purchased Gray Brothers Vault Co., Kansas City, Kan., Weide said.

So far this year they've installed about 65 of the 5,000 pounds-per-square-inch concrete shelters.

The shelters are 6 feet wide by 8 feet long and 6 feet tall on the inside.

"We pour the cement into the forms and it cures out the next day," said Phil Weide, a Tonganoxie resident. "We strip it out and let it cure for 20 more days."

Five of the shelters can be shipped on a semitrailer at one time.

Once an excavator has dug the hole, installation takes two hours. Workers connect the two parts with an adhesive. Once installed, the shelters protrude above ground about 3 feet. Included in the manufacture are roof and side vents, a heavy-gauge metal door that latches from the inside and stairs.

Eventually, Weide said, the company plans to build shelters accessible to people with disabilities. Those would feature 40-inch-wide doors and a ground-level entrance.

Weide said typical buyers of the shelters are parents or grandparents who want to ensure their children's families are safe during tornadoes.

Also, some mobile home park owners and residents are installing the shelters. Weide said they generally install one shelter for every five mobile homes.

They've even installed the shelters in the basement of new homes and the houses are built over them.

And one man in particular found a novel use for his tornado shelter it's a wine cellar complete with ceramic tiles and electricity.

Every tornado spurs more requests for the shelters, Weide said. And during this time of year, that could mean big business.

"Texas just got hit by a tornado and they're calling now for semi loads of the shelters," he said.

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