Work on storm shelters underway
by Jennifer Cohron
Jan 26, 2014 | 2272 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Work has started on the first community storm shelters to be constructed in Walker County since the April 2011 tornadoes.

Walker County E-911 Director Roger Wilson confirmed earlier this week that concrete pads have been poured in the Thach community, as well as in Nauvoo.

Wilson said the concrete will be given 21 days to cure before the contractor, Aqua Marine Enterprises, begins to install the two shelters.

There is no official timeline for when construction will be completed.

“It could be 30 days to 60 days. It just depends on weather and other projects they have lined up,” Wilson said.

Terry McCullar, chief of the Thach Volunteer Fire Department, said residents are eager to see progress being made on the shelter.

It will be centrally located at the community center, which previously served as a school.

“We know that everybody who lives in a trailer, a mobile home or a modular home won’t come to the shelter, but we are giving them the opportunity to be there. If we can prevent the loss of one life, it will be worth it,” McCullar said.

Although the community was spared extensive damage in the 2011 tornadoes, three Thach residents died in storms that also struck Carbon Hill in 2002.

The county has been approved through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a total of 21 community shelters.

Each prefabricated shelter is designed to accommodate up to 100 people and to withstand an EF5 tornado.

The grants for the shelters are valued at approximately $100,000.

Wilson said work should begin next on shelters in Parrish and Cordova.

Other shelters in Carbon Hill, Oakman, Sumiton and a second one in Cordova are expected to be among the first eight to be installed.

Applications for the remaining 13 shelters, which were originally under the oversight of the Walker County EMA, have been resubmitted to address a question regarding project management.

Each project is funded through a federal hazard mitigation grant that requires a 25 percent match from the communities that receive the shelters.

The county applied for the shelters shortly after the April 2011 tornadoes, but installation has been delayed several times for various reasons.

First, the Alabama Manufactured Housing Commission lobbied for the authority to inspect and regulate shelters.

In July 2012, the Walker County Commission approved a Georgia-based low bidder for the shelter but then rescinded the offer a month later because certain specifications mandated by the state were not on the original bid sheet.

Aqua Marine Enterprises was awarded the bid in May 2013.

“Everybody is ready to move forward and get these in the ground before the spring storm season,” Wilson said.