CHICKASAW/LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – North Mississippi is no stranger to tornado disasters.
Now, towns and counties have teamed up and are using the knowledge they’ve learned to help each other during recovery.
It’s happening in Columbus and Chickasaw County.
Chickasaw County was approved for a grant that allowed it to build storm shelters.
Now, Columbus wants to follow that lead and build safe places for first responders.
If you’re ever caught in severe weather, Chickasaw County has you covered.
There are over 30 storm shelters in the county.
EMA Director Linda Griffin said the shelters benefit first responders and residents.
“Instead of one large location for everyone to try and rush to, we spread them out all over Chickasaw County and that gives citizens and first responders a chance of getting to a safe location quicker,” said Griffin.
Chickasaw County received grant money to build the shelters after a deadly 2011 tornado outbreak.
Each location can hold around 35 people and can withstand 250 mph winds.
The shelters are built next to a fire station, to also help first responders.
“We wanted a safe location for them, besides that metal building if in the event of a tornado, especially since law enforcement is out helping us watch the weather, watch the skies, and reporting back to 911 if they see anything. We gotta have a place for them to go to immediately so that’s why we’re widespread all over,” said Griffin.
Columbus Public Information Officer Joe Dillon said the city working a similar plan, using Chickasaw County as a model.
“We’ve turned in what’s called a notice of intent to tell the state that we would like to be put on the list to build up to 20 storm shelters. We learned in our February storm that our first responders are the ones out in the field rescuing people, pulling trees off of houses. They’re responding to these emergency needs and right now we don’t have a storm shelter for them,” said Dillon.
Some of the shelters will be at the city’s five fire stations and others throughout the city at a cost of about $96,000.
Griffin and Dillon agreed cost is not an issue when it comes to the safety of citizens and first responders.
“A lot of times you don’t know until we go under a warning or even have severe weather and that gets you a little closer location since they are widespread and don’t waste driving time,” said Griffin.
Columbus has applied for a disaster grant to pay for the shelters. If the city is approved, construction will begin immediately.