Family Blocked From Storm Shelter During Tornado Because They Didn't Have Masks
Crossville, AL – An Alabama family was turned away from their local storm shelter as a tornado bared down on them on Easter Sunday because they didn’t bring enough face masks with them.
The female resident, who did not want to be identified, said she loaded up her daughter her three-year-old grandchild and headed to the Crossville storm shelter after hearing a news broadcast about the impending severe weather, WHNT reported.
The news outlet’s chief meteorologist issued a warning that “it would be wiser to face the COVID-19 than to stay in a mobile home,” the woman recounted.
WHNT later confirmed that they had broadcast “that exact CDC and EMA-approved statement.”
But when the family reached the safety of the shelter, they were stopped at the doorway.
“The guy actually opened the door, he motioned, ‘do you have a mask?’” the woman said. “I held up one mask. I said ‘I have one mask I can put it on the child.’ He motioned no and shut the door.”
With no other options available, the family made their way back to their vehicle and headed home in the downpour, WHNT reported.
“Twice trying to get somewhere, we nearly wrecked,” she recalled. “I just wanted to squall all the way home. I had to keep it together, you know?”
The woman said that her family could have stayed six feet away from other residents inside the shelter, which she claimed was nowhere near full, WHNT reported.
In preparation for the severe weather, Crossville Mayor Tera Fortenberry made a Facebook post that included details about the face mask rules.
“The storm shelter will OPEN Sunday April 12th at 11am — With the current COVID-19 Virus pandemic — Please try to remain calm and keep your distance as much as possible,” the post read. “YOU ARE ENTERING AT YOUR OWN RISK. Everyone has to wear a mask to be allowed to enter. (Homemade mask, medical masks or a bandanna tied to cover your nose and mouth is acceptable).”
But the woman whose family was turned away from the shelter said she doesn’t use the social media platform very often and that she hadn’t even seen Fortenberry’s post.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey had temporarily suspended the state’s stay-at-home order in anticipation of the deadly storms, according to the Associated Press.
Ivey said that community safe rooms and shelters should remain open despite the pandemic, and that locations should maintain “reasonable practices and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
According to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (EMA), the family should have been allowed into the shelter even without having enough masks, WHNT reported.
But the EMA also noted that municipalities are responsible for establishing their own requirements, and that the EMA has no power over such decisions.
As of Thursday, 5,635 Alabama residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 203 have died, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.