Pine Belt officials give update on storm shelters

Pine Belt officials give update on storm shelters

MOSELLE, Miss. (WDAM) - As the Pine Belt prepares for Hurricane Sally, emergency management agencies are keeping up with the severe weather and making decisions on opening their shelters and safe rooms.

Lamar County is considering opening its shelter Tuesday.

“Tentatively, right now we’re planning on opening tomorrow afternoon,” Emergency Management Director Jason Smith said. “The exact timing has not been determined yet. We try to open it before the wind starts getting to tropical storm force.”

Smith says the shelter will open as a safe place to go.

“What that means is that the feeding operation won’t be taking place and everybody will be required to bring their own supplies like their bedding and their food," Smith said. "We’re just keeping it open for the duration of the worst event, like the heavy wind and stuff like that, and then people can go back to their places of normal residency then.”

With the opening of the shelter, Smith says COVID-19 is still a concern. He encourages residents to consider other options first before going to a storm shelter.

“This will be last resort basically,” Smith said. “We want you to go to friends, family, hotels, whatever you can afford. Go a little bit further north if you have to, to some friends or family. We know the winds are not going to be that bad in this particular storm right now predicted, but still you’ll be out of the sheltering possibility of being in the shelter with a lot of other people right now and being exposed to the potential COVID virus.”

He says they will adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Normally, we can hold about a thousand people,” Smith said. “We’re going to cut that back to about two-hundred, just because of social distancing and people gathering in small places.”

So far, Forrest and Jones counties have not made a decision on their 361 Safe Rooms.

“We don’t have a set time, at this point, to open it,” Jones County Emergency Operations Center Executive Director Paul Sheffield said.

If and when they do decide to open, COVID-19 safety guidelines will be in place at all shelters.

“We’ve got a plan to keep people socially distanced,” Forrest County Emergency Management Director Glen Moore said. “Wearing a mask will be required, so the COVID protocols will be in effect if the shelter opens.”

Lamar, Forrest and Jones are expected to give updates on Tuesday about shelter plans.

Wayne County Emergency Management will also make an announcement Tuesday regarding the opening of a safer place to go.

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