Jackson Co. breaks ground on long-awaited hurricane shelter

(Photo source: Jackson Co. Board of Supervisors)
(Photo source: Jackson Co. Board of Supervisors)

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The dirt has been turned, and now work can begin on the first hurricane shelter/community center in Jackson County.

"This whole southern area will be serviced by this unit right here," Jackson County Supervisor John McKay said.

Supervisor McKay represents the Fontainebleau community, where the facility will be built. He said the county has always lacked shelter space for first responders and citizens.

"We did not have a certified shelter in Jackson County, so people had to go far away. This will hold up to about 300 people," he said.

Fontainebleau Fire Chief Michael Belton is also eager about the project, which he said will make his job easier and safer.

"If we have to retrieve people after the storm that do stay, we will have a proper place to store them that they will be self contained. They will be comfortable, and we can tend to them better," Belton said.

MEMA's Executive Director Mike Womack said the shelter will have self supportive power and water, concrete walls, and it will be able to withstand 200 mph winds.

"It is called FEMA 361 standards," Womack said about the new build. "We are going have over a dozen shelters in the six southern most counties that people will be able to go to."

Womack said even before Hurricane Katrina hit, MEMA was working with the county and emergency officials to provide adequate shelters on the coast.

"A lot of the shelters that were in schools and churches were in surge zones, so therefore we couldn't use them for hurricane shelters. The great thing about this one is this is well out of surge areas."

Three similar shelters will be built across Jackson County.

"Governor Barbour has said repeatedly that we are building the coast back better, and this is just a good example of doing that."

County officials said 73 percent of the $1.5 million cost will be paid by a MEMA grant and FEMA funding. The shelter is expected to be completed by early 2010.

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