Community storm shelter openings and rules vary across North Alabama

Depending on which county you live, rules and openings could vary across North Alabama.

Posted: Mar 24, 2021 5:50 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2021 10:43 PM

As severe weather moves your way, you'll want to make sure you have a safe spot in case of tornadoes.

"I'm not going to be one of those who just brushes it off," Karen Middleton said.

Middleton says she takes severe weather seriously after seeing the damage they can cause.

"Total destruction — you can't even imagine the force of those winds. I take it very seriously," Middleton said.

That's why she along with others across North Alabama are getting ready for Thursday's storms.

"Prepare and make sure the outdoors is in a good shape. So if branches fall or something like that, we don't have to worry too much," Skye Samadani said.

While some people have a safe spot at home, others rely on community shelters. Depending on where you live, those shelters may open at different times.

WAAY 31 reached out to every county EMA in North Alabama.

Jackson and Marshall counties will open their community shelters by Thursday morning.

Lawrence County opens its shelters when a thunderstorm warning goes into effect.

Franklin, Limestone and Morgan county shelters will open during a Tornado Watch.

Meanwhile, community shelters in Lauderdale, Madison and DeKalb counties could open at varying times.

That's because they're not run by the county EMA, but by a municipality or by volunteer managers. They set their own rules for shelters and decide when they also open. However, county EMAs say those shelters are usually asked to open during a Tornado Watch.

Rules at shelters can also vary depending on which county you live at. The rules will be posted on the front door. They usually include basic rules like no smoking or no firearms.

Most community shelters in North Alabama don't accept pets inside storm shelters, which can be tough for some.

"They're like your furry toddlers. They're your kids," Amir Samadani said.

County EMAs say pets can remain in your car outside of the shelter.

However, there are some that make exceptions in Jackson County like the basement of town hall at Section and the garage of the Jackson County Courthouse. There are also some spots of safe refuge in Marshall County that allow pets inside. Some of the shelters that aren't operated by county EMAs may also accept pets. Pets may have to be crated or leashed.

Service animals will be allowed inside shelters as long as they're leashed. Some counties may even require paperwork.

Meanwhile, masking is encouraged at all county shelters. Some places may enforce wearing a mask while others will have some available for people seeking shelter. County EMAs remind people the state mask order is still in effect and ask people to take the necessary precautions.

Other rules may vary, especially between shelters that aren't owned by the county EMA. It's recommended you call ahead of time to make sure you know what is and isn't allowed. 

Overall, all EMAs in North Alabama ask people to be weather aware Thursday and have a plan in place, and people say they'll

"You don't want to take any chances on your life or on your family," Laura Sims said.

You can find a full list of storm shelters here.

Huntsville/Redstone
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Decatur
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Huntsville/Madison
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Decatur
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Fort Payne
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 522131

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754831494
Mobile39111799
Madison34084500
Tuscaloosa25396444
Montgomery24037573
Shelby23210242
Baldwin20714302
Lee15614166
Calhoun14350311
Morgan14164273
Etowah13696348
Marshall12007220
Houston10408279
Elmore10018203
Limestone9858148
Cullman9507191
St. Clair9478236
Lauderdale9271233
DeKalb8760183
Talladega8122173
Walker7146276
Autauga6760106
Jackson6760110
Blount6529133
Colbert6234132
Coffee5431113
Dale4779111
Russell430939
Franklin420982
Chilton4114110
Covington4068115
Tallapoosa3915148
Escambia390374
Dallas3525150
Chambers3516122
Clarke347260
Marion3072100
Pike306576
Lawrence296295
Winston273272
Bibb256361
Marengo248461
Geneva246275
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213168
Fayette209460
Henry188144
Cherokee182744
Randolph177241
Monroe172740
Washington165338
Macon156148
Clay150155
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne146741
Lamar139734
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock121940
Conecuh109528
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 830484

Reported Deaths: 12049
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby927281585
Davidson87309923
Knox49411623
Hamilton43254481
Rutherford41816420
Williamson27237214
Sumner23155339
Montgomery19075224
Wilson17979224
Out of TN1794598
Unassigned16655134
Sullivan16096287
Blount14963194
Bradley14518147
Washington14129242
Sevier13116174
Maury13021168
Putnam11155173
Madison10771240
Robertson9567127
Anderson8599171
Hamblen8478170
Greene7715152
Tipton7216102
Coffee6824121
Dickson6724109
Cumberland6555127
Carter6443156
Bedford6409127
Gibson6387144
McMinn634295
Roane6174102
Jefferson6061121
Loudon601169
Lawrence578686
Hawkins5766106
Monroe570295
Warren550881
Dyer5357104
Franklin508388
Fayette490377
Obion449996
Cocke442998
Cheatham442254
Rhea430375
Lincoln429563
Marshall410358
Campbell408462
Weakley401962
Giles393998
Henderson372475
Macon357376
Carroll357182
White353968
Hardin349166
Hardeman345863
Lauderdale314244
Henry311875
Marion308346
Claiborne305573
Scott305145
Overton296360
Wayne294234
Hickman279645
McNairy276754
DeKalb274953
Smith273938
Haywood268161
Grainger258449
Trousdale248722
Morgan245539
Fentress238046
Johnson230238
Bledsoe209411
Chester209351
Crockett200948
Polk199024
Unicoi194149
Cannon188831
Union185634
Grundy177232
Humphreys173621
Lake169526
Sequatchie166428
Benton162940
Decatur157338
Lewis155726
Meigs134123
Stewart130028
Jackson129635
Clay109031
Houston108333
Perry105728
Moore99717
Van Buren83421
Pickett75624
Hancock54712

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