CHICKASAW COUNTY – There are more storm shelters around here than just about any county in Northeast Mississippi, but recent bad weather has proved the community needs more.
Local storm shelters were packed April 11 when two fast-moving storms raced across Chickasaw County with the first one moving on to slam Tupelo, causing millions of dollars in damage and killing one person.
“All the shelters in Houston and Okolona were full and we had more than 100 people in the cells at the old jail,” said Linda Griffin, executive director of the Chickasaw County Emergency Management Agency. “The storm of April 2011 has taught people that when they hear those sirens go off, they need to take cover.”
Griffin said the shelters are located in high population areas and every volunteer fire station in the county has one.
Griffin said as storm shelters started to overflow, the Chickasaw County Courthouse in Houston and the Post Office in Okolona quickly became places of refuge
Griffin said the county has 21 storm shelters and her office has grants submitted to obtain more. Plans are for two storm shelters to be set up in Okolona and a second one to be set up at the fire stations in Woodland and Thorn.
“We started putting in storm shelters in 2005 with federal grants that pay 75 percent of the cost,” said Griffin. “People need to know where the nearest storm shelter is to where they live and where they work. When the sirens go off it’s too late to go to the internet and start looking for a place to go.”
Griffin explained that Trace Regional Hospital is not a storm shelter.
“All our storm shelters are new and are the safest places to go in a storm,” said Griffin. “They were all marked as part of a Boy Scout project and they are used when the weather gets bad.”
Griffin said the community has seen an increase in private storm shelters.
“You can have one built for about $4,000,” said Griffin. “We have seen subdivisions in other counties pool their money and put in a storm shelter. They hold about 20 to 25 people.”
Griffin also encouraged local businesses and industry to consider installing storm shelters.
“We had a lot of people in factories and businesses when those storms came through,” said Griffin. “If they don’t have a shelter, they should at least have a plan to protect their employees. People need to know where to go when the sirens go off.”
Locations of Chickasaw County storm shelters:
• Houston Airport, 601 Airport Road.
• Houston Civic Center, 635 Starkville Road.
• Houston Community Center, 115 Dulaney St.
• Houston Fire/Police Department, 215 East Harrington St.
• Pearsall Voting Precinct, 105 County Road 91.
• Rhodes Chapel Fire Department, 1324 County Road 416.
• Southeast Fire Department, 1951 County Road 406.
• Thorn Community Center, 106 County Road 37.
• Chickasaw County Admin Building (old jail site), 110 Olive St.
• Egypt Voting Precinct, 253 County Road 177.
• Okolona City Hall, 215 East Main St.
• Okolona National Guard Armory, 214 West Monroe.
• Okolona Police/Fire Department, 106 East Main St.
• Okolona Public Works Building, 300 South Silver St.
• Anchor Voting Precinct, 628 County Road 416.
• Atlanta Fire Department, 1158 Highway 341 South.
• Sparta Opry House, 762 County Road 419.
• Woodland Fire Department, 101 Market St.
• Houlka Fire Department, 205 West Front St.
• Chickasaw County Admin Building (old school location), 146 County Road 412.