Colbert County prepares to open more storm shelters

COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. – It’s tough to say, but April 27, 2011, changed the way everyone prepares for severe weather. The tornado outbreak got the attention of emergency management officials everywhere.

Although tornadoes didn’t cause massive amounts of damage in Colbert County, it did point out some deficiencies.

“Prior to 2011, we had five places in Colbert County that were considered a community storm shelter,” explained Colbert County EMA Director Mike Melton.

Teaming up with FEMA and his county commission, Melton began a massive project.

Mike Melton

“We put community storm shelters on each end of the county, out in the rural communities of our county,” stated Melton. “Just trying to get them spread out throughout the entire county, not just here where the bulk of the populations lives.”

Melton secured funding through FEMA to have 22 community storm shelters constructed. It’s taken a while to plan and locate the right places for the shelters to go, but pretty soon all of them will be operational.

“I’m hoping sometime by summer that we’ll have 21 of the 22 at least built in Colbert County.”

Melton said the shelters which are already in place have seen heavy use during severe storms. And as the rest are completed, he will feel better knowing residents have a shelter near-by to ride out the weather.

Being Severe Weather Awareness Week here is a link to the current list of Colbert County community storm shelters. EMA officials say shelters open when the county goes under a severe thunderstorm warning or when winds reach 50-miles-per-hour.