MYRTLE -- The Myrtle First Baptist Church will be opening their basement for people in the area to have a safe place to go when tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for southern Oregon County and northern Randolph County, Ark.
According to church pastor Earl Jones, the church basement will be open when the warning is issued and will remain open until warnings have been lifted.
"I want area residents to understand this is only for severe weather warnings not watches," he said.
Jones has been pastor at the church since September 2007. "At another church where I was pastor, in Elk Point, S.D., we had the same program and I can remember one night having as many as 20 to 25 people seek shelter in the church basement," he said.
The church board decided to make the basement available during storm warnings at their June meeting.
"We have some steep stairs going into the basement and those that are not able to use the stairs may use the side entrance to the gym, also on the bottom floor of the church," Jones said.
Jones said he was not sure how many people in the Myrtle community have basements. "I don't think there are very many and I know there are a lot of mobile homes," he said.
He said the safe room is not just for church members but anyone in the community that might benefit from its use.
"Our basement is fully equiped with a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot and table and chairs. If the power should go out we will have auxiliary lighting and a weather radio is being donated to us by Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative," he said. He said there will be beverages and snacks and canned food also at the church basement. There are two restrooms available at the church.
"Our church felt like this was something our community needed. It's a way we can serve the community and people and help keep them safe at the same time," Jones said.
He said if a person has heard a severe weather warning and would like to know if the church basement is open they can call him at 417-938-4739.