Want your own tornado shelter? State might help you pay for it.

Tornado season in Ohio typically peaks from April through July, but Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials say now is the time to think about protecting yourself and family. And the state is prepared to give some homeowners up to $4,875 to build a shelter that can withstand twisters with winds of up to 250 mph or more.

The Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program, now accepting applications, helps toward the purchase, construction or installation of tornado-safe shelters for homeowners selected to participate.

“The entire state of Ohio is at risk of an EF5 tornado, which produces 250 mph winds capable of destroying most structures,” said Steve Ferryman, Ohio EMA mitigation branch chief. “A safe room is built to withstand these winds and resulting airborne debris and provides near absolute protection for occupants.”

Residents selected for the program are eligible for a rebate up to 75 percent of the cost to install or construct a safe room — up to a maximum of $4,875. Homeowners have until 5 p.m. March 19 to register on the Ohio EMA website.

Preliminary National Weather Service data show up to 1,406 tornadoes resulted in 35 deaths from 14 killer twisters across the country last year. In 2016, the most recent year complete records are available, 25 tornadoes touched down in Ohio.

A single F-5 tornado tore through the heart of Xenia on April 3, 1974, killing 33 people and injuring more than 1,300 others. It bulldozed a path more than a half-mile wide, destroying or damaging more than 1,400 buildings, including 1,200 homes.

The extreme-wind shelter can be constructed or installed in a basement, beneath a concrete slab foundation or garage floor, or in an interior first-floor room. A safe room may also be buried in the yard or be a stand-alone structure near your home, according to Ohio EMA.

Potential rebate recipients will be selected through random computer process. A priority list of applicants will be created from those selected. Chosen homeowners will be notified by email of their position on the list on or after March 22.

Funding for the rebate program is through a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs. Ohio homeowners would be responsible for 25 percent of the construction costs and any additional costs over the 75 percent maximum rebate of $4,875.

To receive a rebate, safe rooms can't be constructed or installed prior to the drawing. The safe rooms must meet requirements in FEMA publications 320 and 361.

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