Newest hurricane shelter opens in Jackson County

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - People who live in Jackson County can now ride out hurricanes in a safe and comfortable environment. That's because the last of three new storm shelters opened Wednesday in the St. Martin area.

Outside, the shelter looks like a fortress.  Inside, there's plenty of room for up to 350 storm evacuees.

"It's amazing that eight years after Katrina, we're finally starting to see all the projects finish up," Supervisor Troy Ross said. "This is not only just a milestone for the protection of our citizens, but it also shows a new chapter in readiness for hurricane safety for the people of Jackson County."

The shelter can operate during the height of any storm thanks to a high powered generator system. So who can stay here?

"The shelters are there for anyone that feels they are in an unsafe situation during a storm or hurricane, things of that nature," Emergency Management Director Donald Langham explained.

Because of these shelters, schools will no longer have to be used to house people, and that's a good thing, according to Jackson County's school superintendent.

"When it's being used as a shelter, that always complicates for both sides," Dr. Barry Amacker said. "So this will be huge improvement for us to be able to go ahead a take care of the school business and then the shelter be available for the public."

The new shelter offers many of the things you find comfortable in your own home: a state of the art kitchen, bathroom facilities, power, water, electric. But it also offers something else that's just as important: It's built to withstand anything Mother Nature can throw at it, according to Langham.

"These shelters are built under the FEMA 361 hurricane standards for tornado safe rooms, hurricane safe rooms. They have 18 inch thick concrete walls. They are able to withstand 200 mile per hour winds and are very self sufficient and self contained."

The other two identical shelters are located in Vancleave and Hurley. Each cost $3 million to build, with FEMA and MEMA picking up the entire cost.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.