Nearly five years after a tornado struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout Ranch near Little Sioux, Iowa and killed four teens, the camp has come back stronger and more prepared than ever.
Memorials remain inside the fireplace for the four boys who died there when the tornado struck on June 11, 2008. Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, Ben Petrzilka, 14, and Aaron Eilerts, 13, were killed when the fireplace chimney fell on top of them. An open-air chapel has been built on the same concrete slab where that shelter once stood.
That shelter was one of several buildings at the camp that were destroyed, offering little protection for scrambling scouts and staff.
But five years later, the camp has been rebuilt and is more prepared than ever to deal with the worst that Mother Nature has to offer.
The visitor center by the front gate is the first example. From the outside it looks like a normal log cabin. But from the inside it's a different story. The walls and ceiling are made with twelve-inch thick walls of reinforced concrete. And all the windows are covered with heavy steel doors that will keep out nearly all flying debris.
A second shelter in another part of the camp is also brand new providing usable space for everyday use. But it also provides life-saving shelter in case of severe weather.
"We want to make sure that it's FEMA-rated F-5 and higher," says Scott Erikson, Camping, Marketing and Promotions director for the Boy Scouts Mid-America Council. "That's why the size of the windows and doors, and then also a power generator, or at least backup batteries, so if the lights go off, there's still light and the boys and their families feel safe."
The Boy Scouts have also improved the emergency warning system at the camp. A new P.A. system and additional tornado siren have been installed on the camp grounds.