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Recent sirens drove many to take shelter in their basements – if they have one.
The Linwood tornado May 28 led several residents to ask what shelters are available in the Gardner area, and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer available.
“As expected this topic would arise and should by our residents,” said Rob Kirk, fire chief for Johnson County Fire District #1.
“We have no safety code that states any public and or private owned grounds supply a shelter for  bad weather,” said Kirk. “Conestoga (mobile homes) has chosen to supply a few in its park, and I am unaware of how many people can find refuge in them.”
A message left at Conestoga was not returned, but according to a social media post, the basement in the clubhouse is unavailable due to flooding; however, another shelter is available on the grounds.
The Gardner Police Department basement is also available, although it is unclear how many can seek refuge there.
“To my knowledge, we have never turned anyone away at our current PD building during an active tornado warning,” said Jay Belcher, Gardner police chief. “Our new Justice Center will also have the community room which will be a storm shelter and will be open to the public after hours.” The Justice Center is expected to open later this summer.
“We had heard that Conestoga (storm shelters) had some issues last summer, but I believe that was during their ownership turnover, but we have also heard that has been resolved,” Belcher continued.
Both Belcher and Kirk said they were unaware of any ordinance requiring tornado shelters be provided on private property.
Belcher said. “City Hall has an (shelter) area during business hours but it doesn’t get opened after hours. Other than that, I’m not aware of any other storm shelters that open after hours.”
“The problem with going to public safety buildings is they are secure buildings and speaking for the fire side we are out of the building running calls,” Kirk said.