Jackson County Planning New Ways To Shelter Residents During Storms

More needs, and fewer resources. That's the dilemma Jackson County disaster officials are facing as Hurricane Season 2006 draws near. With nearly 10,000 families in FEMA trailers and many folks without transportation, officials are planning new ways to get people in need out of harm's way.

"This is something we've got to do," Jackson County Civil Defense Director Butch Loper says.

With some 30,000 people living in FEMA trailers, Loper expects 10,000 people will need shelter during storms. Two more buildings have been approved to become Red Cross shelters - Latimer Community Center and St. Martin East Elementary. But Red Cross Director Paige Roberts says that's still not enough for everyone.

"We don't have enough spaces. We just don't. At our best, we can do 6300 people," Roberts says.

That number will drop if a large storm comes our way. Katrina's surge proved a few of last year's safe havens were really unsafe.

"We will not open the two St. Martin High Schools and the Moss Point High School if it's a category 3 or higher," Roberts says.

So the county is looking north.

"We're having to look outside of the boundaries of Jackson County for shelters to ensure we have enough space for everyone," Loper says.

Also, during Katrina many people lost their vehicles. So the Red Cross is working with the county to provide buses for residents who need transportation to a shelter.

"What I'd like to see happen is when people step on a bus in Jackson County, they know where they are going. They stay with that bus and the driver," Loper says.

"If we pick you up, we'll be taking you to somewhere probably in the Perry, Green, Newton County areas," Roberts says.

Emergency officials know the needs are greater this year than ever before. While they struggle to prepare the county for the worst, they need people to help out and prepare themselves.

If you are going to need transportation to a shelter or will be needing a spot at a special needs shelter, call the Red Cross office in Pascagoula now to register. The number is (228) 762-2455.

Director Paige Roberts says the chapter needs to know how many people in the county will need these services, so they can plan accordingly.

Here's a list of Jackson County Shelters that will be open for tropical storms and category 1 & 2 hurricanes:

  • East Central Community Center (special needs only)
  • East Central High School
  • East Central Lower Elementary
  • Latimer Community Center
  • Moss Point High School
  • St. Martin East Elementary
  • St. Martin High School (blue)
  • St. Martin High School (gold)
  • Vancleave High School
  • Vancleave Lower Elementary

For category 3, 4 & 5 hurricanes, all of the above schools will open except:

  • Moss Point High School
  • St. Martin High School (blue)
  • St. Martin High School (gold)