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Texans dig deep as more people prep for doomsday

Trident Lakes, north of Dallas, is digging holes for 532 underground luxury condos that will be connected by tunnels. (Photo: Bettie Cross)

If you want the ultimate in home protection dig down 10 feet. A record number of Texans are going underground to make sure they're prepped for doomsday. Anxiety over everything from presidential politics to terrorism to climate change is expanding the market for survival shelters to people who don't want to be uncomfortable if they need to hunker in a bunker.

Preparing for the worst is creating a new demand for the best. Clyde Scott says he makes more bunkers than anyone in the USA. The owner of Rising S Company in East Texas had record sales in 2016 and the election of President Donald Trump is expected to keep business booming.

"Whenever he was actually inaugurated the phone really just blew up," said Scott as he stood in the middle of a giant manufacturing warehouse in Murchison.

Global anxiety about terrorism, mass shootings even natural disasters is pushing the surge in sales. There's no such thing as too much protection.

"This is a hidden door," said Scott as he pushed open a steel door that is disguised as a bookshelf.

The bookshelf hides a secret room in a steel shelter that will eventually be hidden 10 feet underground.

"There's people who believe Trump is going to take us directly into war," said Scott.

For the East Texas cowboy one thing is certain, uncertainty is good for business.

"Customers are all over the map. It isn't just Christian conservatives that buy bunkers anymore," said Scott. "I'm over a year backed up just to get out of this shop what I have right now to build."

As survivalism edges deeper into mainstream culture new buyers have figured out you don't have to give up a lavish lifestyle to live life down under. Small shelters start around $40,000 and offer protection from everything from tornadoes to nuclear bombs. But a million-dollar budget ensures if you're going to live through a war, you're going to live well.

"They're really looking at the underground bunkers as a getaway," said Scott. "They have water filtration, air filtration, blast valves, but there's also the swimming pool, the hot tub, the pool tables, exercise rooms, foosball. A lot of people are getting interested in more luxury."

Underground bowling alleys and movie theaters are turning survival shelters into status symbols. But the Rising S Company warns customers not to brag.

"It's so important to not tell people what you're doing, when you're doing it, how you're doing it or where it's going," said Scott.

If the what, where and when are supposed to be secret no one told the bunker builders at Trident Lakes.

"It's a 50-foot statue. Behind it will be an even bigger statue," said Richie Whitt, Director of Communications for Trident Lakes. "The waters behind this will be bigger than the dancing fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas."

This $300 million project is being built on 700 acres north of Dallas, near the small town of Ector on Texas State Highway 56. Developers say their subdivision of safe havens will be proof you can hide in plain sight.

"It's a 5-star resort. but it also has DEFCON 1 preparedness," said Whitt. ""We're not a prepper community building doomsday bunkers. We're not. We're a lifestyle community that's going to survive the apocalypse and there's a big difference."

Trident Lakes just broke ground on the first of 532 subterranean condos that will be connected by tunnels.

"The response has really been amazing," said Jim O'Connor, the CEO of Trident Lakes. "We have over a thousand on our wait list and it's growing every day."

The CEO says it may look like they're digging holes in the ground, but what they're really selling is the ability to live with a group of like-minded people who prioritize being prepared and protected.

"There are basically two types of people. The average person that makes sure their door is locked at night and they say they're safe. And then the people who have assets and have wealth that want to protect it and protect their families. They think about different scenarios that might happen to them and they develop plans to deal with it," said O'Connor.

A lot of dirt needs to be moved to make room for a long list of amenities that includes three lagoons, an equestrian center, a golf course, gun range and spa. Trident Lakes will also have off-the-grid supplies of food, water and electricity, an air purification system, helipads and a DNA vault.

Prices for the condos have not been finalized, but the smallest units won't come cheap.

"900 square foot bunkers or condominiums that go for $500,000," said Whitt.

"We expect that a significant portion of our customers will be using this as a second or third home," said O'Connor.

It's proof if you have enough money the end of the world doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.

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