Emergency service agencies to build more storm shelters in Mississippi

Time is critical when finding a structure that will keep you protected.

LOWNDES COUNTY,Miss. (WCBI)- Do you have a safe place to go during a tornado warning?

Time is critical when finding a structure that will keep you protected.

County agencies are working for citizens to have access to those places when severe weather strikes.

” It could be within minutes. They could have a thunderstorm, and then within minutes, it turns into a tornado, and people have nowhere to go,” said Cindy Lawrence, the EMA Director of Lowndes County.

Get to your safe place…It’s a phrase you hear during dangerous weather conditions. But how many people have one?

Lawrence said there are three shelter locations in Lowndes County – New Hope High School, Lowndes County Career and Technical School, and Caledonia Elementary School.

But there’s one problem.

“If the schools are in session, there’s nowhere for the citizens to go. We don’t have any storm shelters here in Lowndes County for our citizens,” said Lawrence.

The Board of Supervisors applied for a grant with FEMA to build more safe rooms across the county in areas like Crawford, Artesia, and Steens.

Malary White, with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said all it takes is an application.

” Mema doesn’t build shelters. We are the middle man between the county and city and FEMA. It’s FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program. They can send MEMA a notice of intent, put a mitigation specialist on it, and bring them through the whole application process. We send that application to FEMA for approval or to be denied,” said White.

If approved, MEMA will reimburse funds to the city during the project construction.

” We have FEMA 361 safe rooms throughout the state, we have 94, and that’s a total of safe rooms or retrofits,” said White.

MEMA has started damage assessments for this latest round of storms–At least 21 counties are listed.

Areas include Calhoun, Oktibbeha, Lafayette, and Yalobusha.

” It all just depends on how extensive the damage is. Every disaster is different. You have 30 days to apply for a federal disaster declaration. We’re in the process of gathering those numbers to do that,” said White.

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors is still waiting for its FEMA safe room grant to be approved.

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