Jackson County To Open More Storm Shelters In 2005

Jackson County had only three storm shelters when Ivan hit last year. Pascagoula Red Cross Director Paige Roberts says this year the county could have as many as 16.

"It's going to be a huge help to go from only three shelters working at 66 percent over capacity to 12 shelters with some backups," Roberts said.

"It's going to be a tremendous help. One thing, people won't have to travel as far from their own homes to find a shelter," Jackson County Civil Defense Director Butch Loper said.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting, Roberts and Loper passed out maps which indicated the locations of 16 buildings they inspected and recommended for storm shelter use.

Their recommendations include 12 primary shelters and four back up shelters spread throughout the county.

They include East Central High School, Gautier High School, Moss Point High School, St. Martin High Blue and St. Martin High Gold, Vancleave High School, Vancleave Lower Elementary School, East Central Community Center, Gautier Community Center, Larue Community Center, Latimer Community Center and Vestry Community Center.

Roberts says having so many shelters cuts back on overcrowding and reduces the distance people have to drive to get out of harm's way.

"Even the smaller community centers, they don't hold a lot of people, but it's enough for that particular neighborhood that relieves the number of people seeking shelter at the high schools."

Before the buildings can be used as storm shelters, they need two things. First, approval from the National American Red Cross. After several thorough inspections, Roberts says that shouldn't be a problem. Second, Red Cross certified volunteers to man them.

"They might make a fine shelter, but we're not going to open them if we don't have the people to do it. That's why we're pleading with the public to come forward and get your training now."

Hurricane season is still months away, but Roberts says the Red Cross plans to begin training volunteers within the next two weeks.

The first volunteer training classes are scheduled for Saturday, January 15th. To sign up, call the Pascagoula Red Cross at 762-2455.