Officials wise to open shelter

Published 10:06 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

We’re not exactly sure what changed, but we’re thankful that city and county officials decided to open the FEMA building as a shelter when storms pushed through the area Tuesday.

Previously, officials had said that the facility was only to be opened if the governor declares a state of emergency. It’s intended for evacuees during hurricanes or similar major events. Local residents have complained that the shelter was never open during severe weather.

Though it appears local officials were following FEMA and MEMA guidelines, other cities were not. FEMA buildings in other nearby cities are regularly used as emergency storm shelters.

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Lincoln County Emergency Management Coordinator Clifford Galey met with Mayor Joe Cox, Brookhaven Fire Chief Tony Weeks, Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell and Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing Tuesday morning. Together they agreed the threat warranted opening the building as safe room/tornado shelter at around 11 a.m.

“We decided to just be cautious and go ahead and open it,” Cox said at the shelter Tuesday among a dozen people waiting out the weather.

Though there were no initial reports of damage from Tuesday’s severe weather, the National Weather Service on Wednesday confirmed that an EF-1 tornado hit west of Bogue Chitto. There were no injuries reported, but it underscores the wisdom in opening the shelter. When every meteorologist in the state predicts tornadoes for our area, it’s wise to take them seriously.

Galey said on Wednesday he has a meeting with MEMA and FEMA in early March to go over details about shelter use, but it appears that they will be able to open the building during severe weather in the future.

We’re grateful to local officials for finding a way to open the shelter.