Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Desoto County Lacks Sufficient Hurricane Shelter


Hurricane Charley ripped the roof of the Turner Civic Center, Desoto County's main hurricane shelter. Nearly eight months later the building is still in disarray.

"We got an offer from our insurance company to repair the building. I took that to our board yesterday and they accepted it," said Eric Balmer, the facility director of the Turner Center.

"Now we're going to start the repairs to the building. That process could take anywhere from between eight and nine months they're predicting," he added.

Even if workers repair the damage in time for hurricane season the County Commission decided not to use it as a shelter again. The county has few options.

"We do have an agreement in place now to utilize our community college. That's the only approved shelter in Desoto County at this moment," said Catherine Furr with Desoto County Emergency Management.

As a hurricane shelter, South Florida Community College can hold up to 400 people. About 30,000 people live in Desoto County. So the shelter is well short of their needs.

"Some of the other options we're working on is trying to get a grant through the state of Florida and through FEMA to do a shelter retrofit program to one of the middle schools," said Furr, "however, that option isn't likely to be complete before this hurricane season."

One positive thing is that the American Red Cross now operates full time in Desoto County, but, because of the shelter shortage, they stress preparedness.


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