GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - George County residents looking for shelter when a disaster strikes, will soon have two new sturdy, safe facilities in their area. County leaders broke ground on what they call "Safe Rooms" in the Agricola and Benndale communities.
Each building will have a new, sleek, contemporary design, but don't be fooled. They're strong and sturdy to handle everything from hurricanes to tornadoes.
"George County is a population of roughly 23,000," Supervisor Henry Cochran said. "There are a lot of people that have mobile homes and wood frame structure houses, and this will be a good safe place to come, too."
The first ground breaking ceremony for one of two buildings was held in the Benndale community on Highway 26. Emergency Management Director Lorraine Howell said the safe rooms will be able to hold more than 300 people for up to 36 hours.
"On the west side of the river from Lucedale, we only had one shelter, which was the Benndale Elementary School, which is across the street from this site," Howell said. "It had limited space, so this will provide shelter without having to come into town. And it will be closer for people coming from the coast."
Howell also said the building will not only be used to house people, but it will also be used to get first responders ready and equipped to handle disasters.
"It will be a great asset for community training and training of emergency responders."
MEMA's Bill Brown said $1.7 million federal dollars will pay for each building. He said that's a much needed investment in the safety and security of the people who live here.
"George County is a major route of evacuation off of the coast," Brown said. "Yes, there is a need for George County to have shelters."
Leaders said they expect the two buildings to be open for next hurricane season.