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Why doesn’t Warren County have a safe shelter for storms like this?



tornado shelter
Image by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay
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This question has been asked several times today, “Why doesn’t Warren County have a safe shelter for storms like today?”

Many Warren County residents live in mobile homes or low-lying areas that flood during severe storms. They are at significant risk when tornadic activity occurs. So, why doesn’t Warren County have a safe room for the community?

We asked this question of District 1 Supervisor Ed Herring: “I don’t see why in the world why we can’t do something like this. There is definitely a need,” agreed Herring. “It is definitely doable. We need to do our homework, that is what we need to do.”

District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield responded “It definitely warrants our review and research. A question of a warming shelter came up during the ice storm. There was a concern that the shelter could potentially endanger folks because they would have to travel the roads while being advised to stay off the road. There are various issues to be considered.”

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson responded “For today, John Elfer’s office is who to contact for shelter. As it relates to the shelter, I’ve had extensive conversations with Congressman Thompson and it is unfortunate that the board did not take advantage of the option at that time,” explained Jackson in reference to the past Board of Supervisors not taking advantage of a 361 Shelter program that was being offered by the Federal Government. “One thing I think is promising, moving forward, is there could be funding coming down the pipeline with the new stimulus package. We could also have use of the old jail once the new jail is built. We could retrofit a portion of the old jail to be used as a center to shelter the community after we build a new jail.”

Jackson went on to emphasize “I pray for safety for our community. When we pull through we have to look back and learn how to do better. We’ve got some ideas on how to better enter the next ice storm, but we’ve got to do better.”

Board President and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Holland responded “This board has not yet been in a position to entertain any idea on that point. Our time has been concerned with issues of COVID, road damage, a new jail that we will have to build in the near term. Those have been our most pressing matters. It would be ideal to have a safe room environment. Given that, we will evaluate whether or not we have the opportunity to sponsor such a thing and it will be prioritized among the other things we have to consider.

The matter you’ve described is remarkably important and all the issues we expressed are remarkably important. They are all important and it is a matter of prioritizing them.”

According to FEMA, a 361 shelter is basically a safe room for tornadoes and hurricanes. According to documents from FEMA “…safe rooms have been available since 1998. Since that time, thousands of safe rooms have been built, and a growing number of these safe rooms have already saved lives in actual events. There has not been a single reported failure of a safe room constructed to FEMA criteria.”

There was a federal program that helped communities like Warren County fund and build these structures that could be used in a storm event like today. The last Board of Supervisor passed on the opportunity even though the Federal Government would have picked up 75% of the cost of the structure.

A call was also placed to District 2 Supervisor William Banks without response.

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