Monday, June 5, 2023

Recent Storms Left Shelters Crowded; More Are Needed, says LC EMA Director

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

There are storm shelters at area fire department buildings like this one in Yocona. Image via Google Maps

The Lafayette County Emergency Management Agency is hoping to get a few more storm shelters for county residents.

According to EMA Director Steve Quarles, at least two of the county’s storm shelters have become overcrowded over the last few weeks when severe thunderstorms prompted tornado warnings.

“With the increase of the severity of storms recently, more people are trying to go to the storm shelters,” he told the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors Monday during their regular meeting.

He said the shelters at the fire station in Taylor and out in Lafayette Springs were overcrowded on March 31.

There are shelters at each fire department throughout the county – some have two shelters and some have four shelters. Each shelter is 6 feet by 12 feet and can fit 12 people.

“So each site can have either 24 or 48 people,” Quarles said.

The shelters cost $6,750-$7,200, according to Quarles who said he checked the prices recently. But there’s no guarantee those prices will remain the same.

“We got some last year for $4,200 so it’s gone up about $3,000 in a year,” he said.

Quarles said he’d like the county to purchase more shelters, particularly for areas in the county that have a high number of mobile and manufactured homes.

Supervisors asked about grants to fund the shelters, but Quarles explained that it’s a lengthy process that can take three years or so.

“Other issues about overcrowding that can add to potential danger, is that people are driving last minute to the shelter and then they get there and there’s no room for them,” he said.

Supervisor Larry Gillespie said he liked to see the needs assessment but that if it’s about keeping citizens safe, the Board should consider the purchase.

“If people are going to it and it’s full, even if it costs a little money, I think we need to look at that,” he said.

The Board directed Quarles to do a needs assessment and see which areas need the shelters and how many.