One shelter open in Jackson County: 3 more on the way

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County's newest storm shelter at the Fontainebleau Community Center is built to federal 361 standards, which means it can withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour.

Here's one of the reasons why: The doors don't lead directly outside. You have to go through another door to enter the building. That way, a flying projectile won't come through the door.

Here's another, the walls and the roof are made of concrete, 18 inches thick.

The 7,500 square foot shelter can hold up to 500 people for 36 hours during and after a storm. It's so secure, Jackson County Supervisor John McKay would leave his loved ones here.

"It's built like a bunker," McKay said. "I'll have no problem bringing my kids and grandkids in this facility. It's going to be totally safe."

Another interesting feature: The building has its own water and sewer systems, in case a hurricane knocks out city facilities. If people are stuck there for days, there are even showers in the restrooms. If residents bring pets, the animals can stay in a special room and be kept safe.

Almost certainly, the power will go out in a storm, but that's not a problem. A huge generator can power the entire building for several days, including the air conditioning system.

Three additional shelters are currently under construction in the county, and all are based on the design of the Fontainebleau facility. But they won't be finished until March, well after another hurricane season has passed. Which brings us to the question everyone is asking: It's been almost six years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Why has it taken so long to build these shelters?

The answer is not surprising.

"The government has a tremendous amount of red tape no matter what you do," McKay said. "And the federal government is worse than even your local government, and we have red tape. But the federal government is just unreal."

But with all that red tape comes a lot of money. The three new shelters will cost about $6.8 million to build, and FEMA is picking up the entire tab for construction.

The other shelters are located in the St. Martin, Vancleave, and the East Central communities. The 10,000 square foot shelters can house up to 800 people for three days.

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