Construction nearing completion for Mississippi’s largest storm shelter

Dome Technology is finishing construction of a storm shelter on the Tupelo High School campus that, when complete, will be the largest community storm shelter in the state of Mississippi.

At 175 feet in diameter, the low-profile dome can withstand an EF5 tornado. The 24,000-square-foot shelter is designed to accommodate 2,000 students in a wind event, and though a large building, it is being engineered to meet city restrictions on height.

“Due to a height restriction on the site, the dome needed to be a 1:8 ratio—that means (the dome) has a very low profile. Being the only dome builder that promotes and builds domes with this low of a profile, we were able to provide the solution for this project,” said Dome Technology sales manager Daren Wheeler.

Federal regulations specified the height of the shelter based on its proximity to a national park. “Because of the sightlines and scenic vistas, we had to keep the height down,” said principal architect Will Lewis of JBHM Architecture. “That low-profile curvature of the dome was what made (the storm shelter) feasible for that location.”

mississippi storm shelter

Photo via Daily Journal

Groundbreaking took place in April 2018, and the project will wrap up this month. FEMA and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency grants funded the majority of the project.

Although intended to serve as command center and storm shelter for the student population at Tupelo High School, the building will be finished as a gym and function as a multipurpose building also. Students will take priority during storms, but on the weekend, the shelter will be open to the public should a tornado be likely.

In an interview with local news station WCBI, Tupelo district athletic director Eddie Moore said, “We’re just proud to have it on our campus. We are the biggest high school in the state, and this reflects another plus for Tupelo High School and Tupelo Public School District.”

More and more storm shelters are being built for cities and school districts where natural disasters are common. JBHM Architecture builds many shelters, most of them domes. “The domes are just more flexible, more efficient, and more cost effective than other safe shelters,” Lewis said.

Dome Technology builds shelters that withstand windborne debris, projectiles, and 250-mph winds. The shelters meet and in some cases exceed ICC 500 specifications and FEMA 361 criteria, which allows many publicly funded entities to apply for and receive grant assistance.

Dome Technology hires local crews to build its steel-reinforced concrete storm shelters with local materials, and a dome’s double curvature requires fewer construction materials and produces less waste. In addition, a dome is a free-spanning structure; no interior supports are necessary, making it possible for these storm shelters to also be used as sports facilities or auditoriums.

Key players on this project include Tupelo Public School District, Dome Technology, JBHM Architecture, and general contractor Murphy & Sons.