MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – When the weather gets tough, folks seeking shelter in Madison County really only have a few places to go.
However, the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency is looking to change that, and add more to an interactive storm shelter map for the county.
They are hosting an ‘Areas of Refuge’ Q & A session, hoping that any churches or other community buildings with basements and ample parking can work with them to become a storm shelter for the area.
Paige Colburn is with the Huntsville-Madison County EMA. She says they want to make it easier for the community to find shelter when they need it most.
“We always have calls from people looking for places to go and there’s some community shelters in Madison County but a lot of them are in rural areas.”
They are hoping other organizations with sustainable buildings come forward as shelters in the county.
“It would be especially nice if the churches, community centers, maybe banks or libraries that have basements and have decent parking, open their doors in this capacity and help serve the community in this capacity”, Colburn said. “There are so many people going to James Clemens,which was filled to capacity and a church which had 700 people at one point. It would just be nice to give the community more options.”
That church, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, has been a primary storm shelter for a decade now. It’s now kind of the ‘go-to’ if you would during tornado warnings in the area.
Pastor David Tubbs said they don’t turn people away, but could use the relief.
“Because we’ve been the only game in town for several years, and because we’ve developed a reputation of being open all the time, I think everyone just automatically comes here.”
Tubbs will be presenting at Wednesday’s meeting, supporting the idea of additional shelters in the county. He said he’s “just absolutely amazed” that there aren’t more shelters in the area.
But, that may not be the case, which is why the EMA is putting out an all-call for those who want to make themselves known as community shelters in Madison County.
“It would just be nice to have more options out there, more places for people to go and I think that’s what everyone’s looking for. We’re hoping to have a very user friendly website that just lists all these locations and maps to tell you where they are and pictures to help,” said Colburn.
They want to make a map showing open locations as green and closed as red. They also want to list rules, so folks know whether or not they can bring pets ahead of time.
They are using the Etowah County shelter website as an example of what they are looking to do for Madison County.
The Q & A session is Wednesday, July 9th at 2:00 p.m. in the Huntsville-Madison County EMA office.