SMITHVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) -- In April of 2011, an EF-5 tornado devastated several towns across Mississippi and Alabama.
Now, Smithville School has a basketball gymnasium that doubles as a shelter, built a couple of years after that deadly tornado, according to the school's Principal.
This gym has a concrete ceiling, the principal said it is where hundreds of people come to shelter during a storm.
It's maximum capacity is 1,000 people seated, but he said they can fit more in there standing in the event of a major storm.
"A lot of folks are probably like, me, might not have taken storms seriously, but that's not really an issue now. When the sirens go off, this place gets packed quickly," Principal Chad O'Brian said.
O'Brian said that during school hours, he takes over operations of the gym, but after school hours, or if he's not in town, the City Hall and police take over and make sure the gym is operational for people to use.
"That's really the biggest thing in storms like this is just communication and preparedness ahead of time. You know once it hits, it's a little too late, as we found out back in 2011," O'Brian added.
Right down the street is a WTVA viewer who said he was listening to WTVA Meteorologist Matt Laubhan when the storm hit.
"This is a picture after the tornado with us," he said as he pointed to a photo of the damage to his property taken from an aerial view.
"We had a building here destroyed, building here destroyed, house destroyed, this is the office where we was standing, the only thing left was the floor."
He said the only building left in good shape was his barn.
"We were here in the hall of the house praying Lord, save us. And he did."
"Ever since then, I have to listen to Matt on the weather, afraid it's gonna be bad again. (laughs)"
He said that it was truly incredible to see the turnout of people to help after the storm, adding it took about 2 years for him to completely rebuild.
He said he's been through it, so he knows what to do if a tornado comes again, adding that he also prepares by making sure he has water and food.
"It's something you try to forget. I have after it happened, but it's part of life."