COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Almost six months after parts of Colbert County were struck but a tornado, four new storm shelters are ready in case it happens again.
Emergency management officials recently unveiled two of those shelters in Sheffield.
“We’re trying to evaluate and get away from the word ‘tornado’ and try to start looking at the hazards that winds can do to you,” explained Colbert County EMA Director Mike Melton.
It comes down to communication and relaying information when the shelters are open. Melton said they are working to cover more than tornadoes.
“If the National Weather Service, local meteorologists are predicting 50, 60 mile per hour winds, then somebody may not feel safe at their house if they’ve got 20, 30, 40 foot trees in their front yard,” Melton said.
But thanks to a $2.7 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the county has 21 new shelters either open or almost ready to open. Three of those are in Sheffield.
One of those new storm shelters is next to the Sheffield Recreation Center. That one can hold 96 people in event of an emergency. A 48-person shelter is behind Manning Homes, an area hit by the July EF-1 tornado.
A third shelter is scheduled to be built near Rivermont subdivision. Now, they are working to provide all of them electricity and water.
“We’ve got them to where they can save your life. If they are close to your house and we are under a tornado warning, or wind, they are safe than most houses out there right now.”
Melton said a new feature is the ability to lock and unlock the shelters magnetically by a radio signal.
There is also a new shelter at the Colbert County Road Department on Alabama 20/157. They also installed an emergency alert siren there.
The shelter at Coburn Mountain Road has been installed and like the others, still needs electricity.