Hurricane Shelter Shortage

By: Hermelinda Vargas
By: Hermelinda Vargas

Once completed, Marianna High School's new facility will host about 1,000 students and faculty. It will also provide shelter for over 2000 local residents during hurricanes.

Currently, the county can only provide so-called at-risk shelter for about 500 people. That's less than 15 percent what the state says should be available.

"It's nice to have a facility like this that is safe and will allow not only our people, but folks from down off the coast to come up in case of a hurricane," says Superintendent Danny Simms.

Ironically, the building that's supposed to keep people safe from extremely bad weather has not been completed because of bad weather of a different sort.

"Throughout the project, rains and real clay materials here at the site have slowed construction, so we're really in a push now to get to the point of completion," says Buddy Dickson, the building coordinator.

Even so, the contractor, through the direction of Jackson County's School Board, has managed to get much of the interior done, including hurricane-safe re-enforcements like steel beams and special windows.

"The roof, the windows and everything have to stand missile impact for debris that might be flying during a storm."

Contractor Buddy Dickson and school Superintendent Danny Sims say they expect everything to be complete by August 4. That's when students are due to begin the 2004 school year.

The state provided more than 80 percent of the money for the new school. All new schools built in Florida are required to also serve as emergency shelters.


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